Day of the Locust, The (1975): Schlesinger’s Oscar Nominated Version of Nathaniel West’s Novel

One of the most ambitious films by John Schlesinger (Oscar-winner for “Midnight Cowboy”), “The Day of the Locust,” adapted to the screen by Waldo Salt from Nathanael West’s powerful novel, offers a grim look at the City of Los Angeles in the 1930s.

This nightmare vision of Hollywood as the glamour industry dream factory is populated by dreamers, wannabes, misfits, losers, and dreamers, as seen through the eyes of the ethereal and savvy art director, Tod (William Atherton).

Among the dreamers are a would be star but untalented actress Faye (Karen Black), her ex-vaudevillian father Harry (Burgess Meredith), inarticulate Homer (Donald Sutherland) who’s obsessed with Faye, and a sinister dwarf named Abe (Billy Barty).

The tale’s climax depicts a chaotic riot at a movie premiere. The film is not always successful in evoking the dark surrealist satire of the movie industry that author West did so well in his book, often cited as one of the key works of fiction about L.A.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Supporting Actor: Burgess Meredith
Cinematography: Conrad Hall

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

Burgess Meredith lost the Supporting Oscar to another vet, George Burns in the comedy, “The Sunshine Boys.

The Cinematography Oscar went to John Alcott for “Barry Lyndon,” Kubrick’s masterpieces.


Homer (Donald Sutherland)
Faye (Karen Black)
Harry (Burgess Meredith)
Tod (William Atherton)
Big Sister (Geraldine Page)
Claude Estee (Richard Dysart)
Earle Shoop (Bo Hopkins)
Miguel (Pepe Serna)
Mary Dove (Leila Goldoni)
Abe (Billy Barty)