With three Oscar nominations to his name director Norman Jewison had a varied and eclectic back catalogue of films to his name that took in serious themes such as In the Heat of the Night to more light weight fare like The Thomas Crown Affair.
Born in Toronto on 21st July 1926 Norman Frederick Jewison was raised by Methodist parents who ran a post office and general store that was beneath their apartment. Yet despite his Methodist up bringing he was teased at school, due to his surname. An average student he spent the weekends at the movies. After leaving education he joined the Navy during WWII before returning to go to University and graduating in 1949. After this he began working in television moving to New York in the 1950’s where he directed variety shows and music specials. 1953 saw him marry Margeret Ann Dixon and together they would have three children before she passed away in 2004. He would marry Lyne St David in 2010
But it would be in 1962 where he made his film directing debut with ‘40 pounds of trouble’ with Tony Curtis followed by a few Doris Day rom-coms and then taking over the reins on The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen after Sam Peckinpah was fired. After that he helmed “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming,” that was nominated for four Oscars. The success of the film led to him being offered In the Heat of the Night (1968) a seminal moment in films tackling racism. It would earn him his first Best Director Oscar nomination though he would lose to Mike Nichols for The Graduate but the film would win for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and for Rod Steiger as Best Actor
The film was shot on location and he continued to do so for the musical Fiddler on the roof (1971) another film with a heavyweight theme this time of a pogrom. And it would see him nominated for his second Oscar this time losing to the late William Friedkin for The French Connection. Another film with a religious setting would be his 1973 film adaptation of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar shot on location in Israel.
With the heist romance The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) showed he had a light touch but equally he returned to more heavyweight themes with judicial thriller And Justice For All and again another film with a racial theme A Soldiers Story (1984) and The Hurricane (1999)
His range of work was comprehensive and his light weight comedy Moonstruck (1988) would earn Cher an Oscar make a bona fide star of Nicolas Cage and earn him his third and last Oscar nomination this time losing out to Bernardo Bertolucci for The Last Emperor. It would be one of his last films directing only twice more with his last film being The Statement (2003) starring Michael Caine.
In 1999 he was awarded the Irving G Thalberg Memorial Award and in 2003 he was honoured in Canada with a Governors Performing Arts Award. He retired to a large ranch near Toronto where he raised horses and produced that Canadian favourite Maple syrup
Norman Jewison died on 29th January 2024 aged 97
related feature ; William Friedkin – OBITUARY