Nationality: Canadian. Born: Toronto, Ontario, 21 July 1926. Education: Malvern Collegiate Institute; Victoria College, University of Toronto, B.A., 1945; studied piano and music theory at the Royal Conservatory. Military Service: Served in the Royal Canadian Navy. Family: Married Margaret Ann Dixon, 1953; two sons, one daughter. Career: Actor and scriptwriter in London, 1950–52; producer and director, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1953–58; director for CBS, New York, won several Emmy awards, 1958–61; moved to Hollywood, 1961; after directing first feature, 40 Pounds of Trouble , signed a seven-picture contract with Universal, 1963; executive producer, The Judy Garland Show , for television, 1963–64; moved to MGM for The Cincinnati Kid , 1965; moved to the top rank of Hollywood directors with the award-winning In the Heat of the Night , 1968; maintains an office in London and a residence in Malibu, but primarily works out of his native Toronto, where he is the founder and co-chairman of the Canadian Center for Advanced Film Studies. Awards: Best Picture Academy Award, Best Picture Golden Globe, British Academy Award UN Award, for In the Heat of the Night , 1968; Officer, Order of Canada, 1982; honored by the American Civil Liberties Union, 1984; Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear, for Moonstruck ,
40 Pounds of Trouble
The Thrill of It All
Send Me No Flowers
The Art of Love ; The Cincinnati Kid
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (+ pr)
In the Heat of the Night
The Thomas Crown Affair (+ pr)
Gaily, Gaily ( Chicago, Chicago ) (+ pr)
Fiddler on the Roof (+ pr)
Jesus Christ Superstar (+ co-pr, co-sc)
Rollerball (+ pr)
F.I.S.T. (+ pr)
. . . And Justice for All (+ co-pr)
Best Friends (+ co-pr)
A Soldier's Story (+ co-pr)
Agnes of God (+ co-pr)
Moonstruck (+ co-pr)
In Country (+ co-pr)
Other People's Money (+ pr)
Only You (+ pr)
Bogus (+ pr)
The Hurricane (+ pr)
Canadian Pacific (Marin) (uncredited ro)
The Landlord (Ashby) (pr)
Billy Two Hats (Kotcheff) (co-pr)
The Dogs of War (Irvin) (exec pr)
Iceman (Schepisi) (co-pr)
January Man (O'Connor) (pr)
Dance Me Outside (McDonald) (co-exec pr); A Century of Cinema (Thomas) (doc) (interviewee)
The Stupids (Landis) (ro)
An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (Smithee, Hiller) (ro)
Steve McQueen: The King of Cool (Katz—for TV) (doc) (interviewee)
The Incredible Mr. Limpet (pr)
"Norman Jewison Discusses Thematic Action in The Cincinnati Kid ," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), July/August 1965.
"Turning on in Salzburg," in Action (Los Angeles), July/August 1969.
Interview in Directors at Work , edited by Bernard Kantor and others, New York, 1970.
Interview with Gordon Gow, in Films and Filming (London), January 1971.
Interview with C. Tadros, in Cinema Canada (Montreal), September 1985.
Interview in Premiere (New York), Autumn 1987.
Interview with L. Van Gelder, in New York Times , 11 December 1987.
Interview with T. Matthews, in Box Office (Hollywood), January 1988.
Interview with A. Hunter, in Films and Filming (London), April 1988.
Carducci, M., "Norman Jewison Directs Rollerball ," in Millimeter (New York), March 1975.
Mariani, John., "Norman Jewison Directs And Justice for All ," in Millimeter (New York), October 1979.
Robertson, R., "Motion Pictures: The Great American Backlot," in Millimeter (New York), February 1988.
Zarebski, K. J., "Wplyn ksie zyca," in Filmowy Serwis Prasowy (Warsaw), no. 9/10, 1989.
Pede, R., "Norman Jewison: Vietnam: verlies van onschuld," in Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), March 1990.
Rothstein, M., "In Middle America a Movie Finds Its Milieu," in New York Times , 6 March 1988.
Article in American Film (New York), July 1990.
Van Gelder, L., "At the Movies," in New York Times , 6 July 1990.
Lavoie, A., "Une certaine idee sur le cinema Canadien," in Cine-Bulles (Montreal), no. 4, 1991.
Greenberg, J., "The Controversy over Malcolm X ," in New York Times , 27 January 1991.
De Vries, H., "A Director's Story," in Premiere , November 1991.
Eller, C., " Money Maker Jewison at Work on a Walletful of Pix," in Variety (New York), 4 July 1991.
"Filmografie," in Segnocinema (Vicenza, Italy), March/April 1992.
Schwager, J., "A Little Romance," in Boxoffice (Chicago), April 1994.
Lally, K., "Veteran Director Jewison Returns to Romance," in Film Journal (New York), September 1994.
Descamps, S., and J. Noel, " Bogus ," in Les Cine-Fiches de Grand Angle (Mariembourg, Belgium), January 1997.
Weinraub, Bernard, "A Veteran Director Still Fights the Good Fight," in New York Times, 26 December 1999.
* * *
The very model of the modern up-market commercial director, Norman Jewison seems cut out to make the kind of prestige pictures once handled at MGM by Clarence Brown and Victor Fleming. No theme is so trashy or threadbare that he cannot elevate it by stylish technique and apt casting into a work of merit, even on occasion art.
Early work with an aging and cantankerous Judy Garland marked him as a man at ease with the cinema's sacred monsters; in the indifferent sex comedies of the early 1960s, he acquired equal skill with the pastels of Hollywood color and the demands of widescreen. A recognizable Jewison style was first evident in The Cincinnati Kid. Its elements—rich crimsons; the sheen of faces, tanned or sweating, in shadowed rooms; an edgy passion in performance—reappeared in In the Heat of the Night and The Thomas Crown Affair , novelettes redeemed by their visual flair and a sensual relish, not for sex, but for the appurtenances of power.
Not at home in domestic or comic realms, Jewison brought little to Ben Hecht's film memoir Gaily, Gaily , the literary ellipsis of The Landlord , or comedies like Best Friends. Two musicals, Fiddler on the Roof and Jesus Christ, Superstar , did, however, offer an invitation to location-shooting and unconventional staging which Jewison confidently accepted. Though little liked on release, the latter shows a typical imagination and sensuality applied to the subject, which Jewison relocated in contemporary Israel to spectacular effect. Rollerball , his sole essay in science fiction, belongs with Thomas Crown in its relish for high life. The film's strength lies not in its portrayal of the eponymous gladiatorial game but its depiction of the dark glamour of life among the future power elite.
A pattern of one step forward, two steps backward, dominated Jewison's career into the 1980s. The Israel-shot western Billy Two Hats was a notable miscalculation, as was the Sylvester Stallone union melodrama F.I.S.T. , a program picture that needed to be an epic to survive. He was on surer ground in . . . And Justice for All , a dark and sarcastic comedy/drama about the idiocy of the law, with a credible Al Pacino in command. But films like the post-Vietnam melodrama In Country did little to enhance his reputation. It is a cause for concern that he could never put together his projected musical remake of Grand Hotel , whose elements seem precisely those with which he works most surely. A taint of the high-class advertising lay-out characterizes Jewison's best work, just as the style and technique of that field rescues his often banal material.
Among Jewison's 1990s films are Other People's Money (about an all-consumingly greedy Wall Street type, a role tailor-made for Danny De Vito) and Only You (the story of an incurable romantic and her quest for true love)—both well-crafted and likeable but never truly memorable. The same might be said for 1988's Moonstruck , among the biggest hits of the latter stages of his career, a popular comedy of life among New York City's ethnic Italians. The film was a box-office smash and earned Cher an Academy Award. Yet while entertaining, on closer examination the film is all Hollywood gloss. It fails to authentically capture a true sense of its characters and their down-home ethnicity in a way that independent director Nancy Savoca, working on a minuscule budget compared to Jewison's, succeeds so brilliantly in doing in True Love and Household Saints.
Another project that Jewison had an interest in never came to fruition. The director originally had wanted to film an account of the life of Malcolm X, but he gave up the project upon Spike Lee's protestations that only a black filmmaker could do justice to the story. But Jewison did complete his trio of heartfelt, humanistic treatises on racism (following In the Heat of the Night and A Soldier's Story ). At the tail end of the 1990s he made The Hurricane , the story of real-life middleweight boxing contender Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who was falsely convicted of committing a triple murder and spent years in prison before being exonerated. The film was well crafted and impeccably acted (particularly by Denzel Washington, playing Carter), but no sooner did it open theatrically than it earned condemnation for allegedly toying with the facts in the case. In The Hurricane , three Canadians are portrayed as being responsible for uncovering the evidence that cleared Carter, yet the real heroes actually were the boxer's lawyers. Former middleweight champ Joey Giardello sued the film's producers, claiming that his 1964 title bout with Carter was inaccurately portrayed on screen; according to the suit, the implication that Carter lost because of racial prejudice on the part of the judges was erroneous. These allegations led New York Daily News film critic Jack Mathews to remove The Hurricane from his 1999 Top Ten films list. Without doubt, the controversy obscured the film's high artistic merit—and may have prevented it from earning Best Picture and Best Director Academy Award nominations.
Beyond the contention surrounding The Hurricane , a cynic might condemn Jewison for the idealistic liberalism on view in In the Heat of the Night, A Soldier's Story , and The Hurricane . Yet it must be remembered that In the Heat of the Night , and its portrait of the professional respect that evolves between Rod Steiger's red-necked, small-town Southern sheriff and Sidney Poitier's Northern urban policeman, was made at a key juncture in the then-evolving civil rights movement. It is a courageous film for its time. And A Soldier's Story , a vivid adaptation of Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the murder of a black military officer in the 1940s, was made pre-Spike Lee, in the early 1980s, when precious few serious-minded films about the black-American experience were being produced in Hollywood.
—John Baxter, updated by Rob Edelman