Norman Jewison, who directed Best Picture Oscar winner In the Heat of the Night and nominees Fiddler on the Roof, A Soldier’s Story, Moonstruck and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, also producing the latter four, died peacefully Saturday, January 20. He was 97.
Jewison’s film career spanned more than four decades and seven Oscar nominations — three for Best Director (In the Heat of the Night, Fiddler on the Roof and Moonstruck) and the four for Best Picture. His films received a total of 46 nominations and 12 Academy Awards. In 1999, Jewison was honored with the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award at the Academy Awards. He also collected three Emmy Awards for his work in television.
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A smattering of his other wide-ranging work includes The Hurricane, Agnes of God, Rollerball (1975) and Jesus Christ Superstar, all of which he also produced. As a producer, Jewison had an eye for talent, as well.
“Jewison had an important presence in the careers of fellow filmmakers. His homes in Los Angeles and Canada were the centers of well-attended parties for directors and stars and he was generous in his advice to budding filmmakers,” recalls Deadline’s Peter Bart, who first met Jewison when Bart was a reporter for the New York Times and later, as a studio executive, appreciated Jewison’s efforts on behalf of others in Hollywood.
Case in point: Admiring the talents of his editor, Hal Ashby, Jewison actively promoted Ashby’s directing career, helping him secure Harold and Maude. He also helped steer he career of a fellow Canadian, Ted Kotcheff, producing his film Billy Two Hats.
Among the actors whose careers saw a boost after working with Jewison is Cher, who won an Oscar for Moonstruck. She took to Twitter shortly after news of the director’s passing broke and wrote, “Farewell Sweet Prince. Thank U For One Of The Greatest, Happiest, Most Fun Experiences Of My Life. Without U, I Would Not Have My Beautiful Golden Man.”
Lee Grant, who played Mrs. Colbert in In the Heat of the Night, wrote, “Norman Jewison is a giant and I am in his debt. He gave me back a career at the end of the blacklist. I doubt there has been a more versatile director before or since. A huge hearted man and truly unique talent. Nothing I say here can do him justice. But I can say ‘Thank You.'”
Jewison was born on July 21, 1926, in Toronto. In the early stages of his career, he found occasional work as an actor on the stage and in radio for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After a stint at the BBC, he went on to and write, direct and produce some of Canada’s most popular musicals, dramas, comedy-variety shows and specials for the CBC.
Jewison went to New York in 1958 to direct Your Hit Parade for CBS. That led to The Andy Williams Show, two Harry Belafonte specials, Danny Kaye’s television debut, The Broadway of Lerner and Loewe and award-winning Judy Garland specials.
In film, Jewison directed a series of comedies for Universal before becoming an independent producer. He hit it big with his first effort which he co-wrote and directed, 1965’s The Cincinnati Kid, starring Steve McQueen, Ann-Margret and Edward G. Robinson. That set him off on a run of memorable films that included the star-packed romp The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming; The Thomas Crown Affair, again with McQueen; In the Heat of the Night, which won five Academy Awards including Best Picture of 1967; and the powerful ... And Justice For All with Al Pacino).
Jewison received scores of other prestigious awards during his long career, including the Best Director award at the Berlin Film Festival, a BAFTA Awards, the Donatello Award from Italy and the Genie Award from the Canadian Academy.
In January 2010, he was presented with the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America. The Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a retrospective in Jewison’s honor in May 2011. The Toronto International Film Festival had a retrospective for Jewison in August 2011.
Jewison was the founder of the Canadian Film Centre, akin to the American Film Institute in the United States. Jewison received its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.
Canada made him an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982, a member of the Order of Ontario in 1989, and in 1992 decorated him with the Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award. Jewison was presented with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2004.
Jewison is survived by his loving wife Lynne St. David, his children Kevin Jewison (Suzanne), Michael Jewison (Anita), Jenny Snyder (David), and his grandchildren Ella, Megan, Alexandra, Sam and Henry. He is predeceased by his first wife Margaret Ann (Dixie) Jewison. Celebrations of Life will be held in Los Angeles and Toronto at a later date.
Directors Guild of America President Lesli Linka Glatter made a statement on Jewison’s death today:
“Today we mourn the loss of a legendary Director. Known for his influential and impactful filmography over many decades, Norman was also one of our DGA heroes – a warrior and champion always ready to defend his fellow Directors, their creative rights and the craft of Directing.
Norman’s cinematic range was truly remarkable—few filmmakers can so fluidly and eloquently move between romantic comedies, dramas and musicals as he did. But his most powerful films, and those he said were his ‘dearest,’ tackled racism and injustice, including In the Heat of the Night and A Soldier’s Story, both of which brought DGA Awards nominations. For his outstanding representation of the Director’s craft, we awarded him in 2010 with the Guild’s top honor, the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award.
In addition to directing, the importance of Guilds and Unions and the fight for racial justice and equality was central to Norman’s work and life. A dedicated and passionate member of the Guild, Norman served on the National Board, the DGA Western Directors Council and on many Committees, always mentoring others and working to preserve and expand the creative rights of DGA members.
He will forever be remembered by his fellow Directors as a vibrant force—bringing depth, insight and a necessary dose of humor to everything he touched. Our thoughts are with his wife Lynne, his family and the many Directors and Directorial team members fortunate to have been influenced by him.”
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