John Schlesinger, the Oscar-winning director of Midnight Cowboy, died on Friday, near his home in Palm Springs, California. The British-born, veteran film-maker, suffered a debilitating stroke in December 2000, from which he never fully recovered. Recent weeks had seen the 77 year old's health deteriorate significantly.

Schlesinger, along with Tony Richardson, Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz, was part of the new wave that transformed British cinema in the sixties and remained a key industry figure throughout the seventies.

In 1969, Midnight Cowboy, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, earned seven Academy Award nominations, and went on to win best picture, best direction and best adapted screenplay.

Schlesinger's acclaimed filmography includes Darling, A Kind of Loving, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Billy Liar, Marathon Man and Far From the Madding Crowd. Both Darling, capturing the spirit of London's 'swinging sixties' with Julie Christie, and Sunday Bloody Sunday, his groundbreaking portrayal of homosexuality, were also nominated for Oscars.

Schlesinger's last feature was The Next Best Thing starring Madonna and Rupert Everett.

Last year, Bafta held a special ceremony in Los Angeles to present Schlesinger with a lifetime achievement award.

However, his ill health prevented him from attending and the event became a collective tribute from the many industry players he had worked with. Dustin Hoffman, Vanessa Redgrave, Sally Field, Richard Gere and Alan Bates, directors Francis Ford Coppola, Nicolas Roeg, and Steven Soderbergh, and singers Placido Domingo and Paul McCartney all took part in the ceremony.

Schlesinger wrote an acceptance speech, read by Hoffman, which said, 'I have had the best of all possible worlds. How exciting my life has been ... I have indeed been a lucky man'In my next life, maybe I'll be what I set out to be in this one, an architect."