Norman Jewison, the Oscar-nominated director of In the Heat of the Night and Moonstruck has died at the age of 97, his publicist said yesterday.
The Canadian-born Jewison worked with some of Holl ywood’s biggest stars including Steve McQueen, Denzel Washington, Sidney Poitier and singer-turned-actress Cher.
Over an eclectic career,
he hopped among genres, helming musicals, comedies and romances, but is best known for films tackling weighty social issues. Jewison began his career in television
but moved to Hollywood in the early 1960s where he teamed up with Tony Curtis for the comedy 40 Pounds of Trouble, which proved to be a box office hit.
Two films with Doris Day followed with Jewison tied to Universal, a partnership that also saw him working with James Garner on The Art of Love.
Oscar recognition came in 1966 with quirky comedy The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming, when he scored a nomination for best picture.But it was with In the Heat of the Night that he announced his arrival as a serious auteur.He conjured memorable turns from Oscar-winner Rod Steiger as a racist Southern sheriff, playing opposite against Poitier.The film won an Academy Award for best picture, and he was nominated as best director.Jewison paired up with McQueen for the smash The Thomas Crown Affair and then pivoted to a silver-screen version of Fiddler on the Roof, which audiences lapped up.More music was to follow with the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, with Joshua Mostel playing the deliciously camp King Herod.
In 1975 he directed James Caan in dystopian action flick Rollerball before teaming up with Al Pacino for the dark 1979 comedy …And Justice for All.It was in 1987 that he hit commercial and critical gold with Moonstruck, starring Cher and Olympia Dukakis, who both bagged acting Oscars. The film also introduced the world to Nicolas Cage.The following few years saw projects with Bruce Willis (In Country), Robert Downey Jr (Only You) and Whoopi Goldberg (Bogus).In 1999 he directed Washington to the Best Actor statuette in The Hurricane, a true story of a boxer wrongly accused of murder.
Jewison was born in Toronto, Canada on July 21, 1926, and made his acting debut at the tender age of just five.He spent time in the Royal Canadian Navy, and earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College.A stint as a cab driver underpinned his nascent acting career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, an organisation to which he returned after a two-year work/study programme with the BBC.Over the following few years, he would write, direct and produce some of Canada’s most popular musicals, dramas, comedy-variety shows and specials for the corporation.
Canada made Jewison an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982, and a member of the Order of Ontario in 1989. In 1992 he was decorated with the Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award.