A mere six minutes of screen-time in John Schlesinger’s 1969 counter-cultural hit Midnight Cowboy was all it took to land Sylvia Miles her first Oscar nomination. For the 1975 adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, which brought her second Oscar nod, she still failed to clock up more than 10 minutes on screen. But then Miles, who has died aged 94, knew how to make every second count, filling her life as well as her performances with incident and vitality.
Midnight Cowboy demonstrated her extraordinary way with character, conveying the depth of a complex life in a handful of concentrated gestures. Briskly applying her lipstick in the mirror, she is oblivious to the awkward attempts by the greenhorn hustler Joe (Jon Voight) to broach the subject of payment after sex.