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 January 23, 2024

‘Fiddler On The Roof’ Director Normal Jewison Dead At 98

The film industry has lost one of its most distinguished figures.

Norman Jewison, the Canadian director whose career spanned over four decades, passed away on January 20 at the age of 97.

Norman Jewison, born in Toronto on July 21, 1926, began his illustrious career in radio and acting before transitioning to television and film. His journey took him from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to the BBC and eventually to New York, where he directed various TV shows for CBS. Jewison's cinematic journey was marked by a series of successful comedies at Universal, but it was as an independent producer that he truly found his stride.

A legacy of diverse and influential films

Jewison's filmography is notable not only for its breadth but also for its impact on the industry and audiences alike. His first major cinematic success came with "The Cincinnati Kid" (1965), a film that showcased his ability to capture complex characters and compelling narratives. Over his career, Jewison directed and produced several notable films, including "The Hurricane," "Agnes of God," "Rollerball" (1975), and the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar."

These films were both commercial successes and critically acclaimed, earning Jewison seven Oscar nominations, including three for Best Director. Collectively, his films received 46 Oscar nominations and won 12 Academy Awards, highlighting his exceptional talent in the art of filmmaking.

The film industry recognized Jewison's work through numerous awards. In 1999, he was honored with the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award at the Academy Awards, a testament to his significant contributions to the world of film. Additionally, his television work did not go unnoticed, as he won three Emmy Awards, further cementing his versatility as a filmmaker.

Influencing generations of filmmakers and actors

Jewison's influence extended beyond his works. He played a pivotal role in fostering the careers of other filmmakers and actors. His mentorship and guidance helped launch Hal Ashby's directing career and boosted the success of Canadian filmmaker Ted Kotcheff. The impact of his work and his supportive nature created ripples through the industry, inspiring a new generation of filmmakers.

His influence was also felt by the actors he directed. Cher, who won an Oscar for her role in "Moonstruck," a film directed by Jewison, expressed her deep gratitude towards him on Twitter, calling him a "Sweet Prince" and crediting him for one of the greatest experiences of her life.

Her words resonate with the sentiments of many who worked with Jewison, reflecting the personal impact he had on those he collaborated with.

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, an actress in "In the Heat of the Night," another of Jewison's acclaimed films, praised his versatility and talent. She acknowledged the significant role Jewison played in reviving her career post-blacklist, a testament to his commitment to justice and artistic integrity.

Jewison's early years and move to directing

Before he became a prominent director, Jewison's career had humble beginnings in Canada. His work as an actor and in radio for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation laid the groundwork for his future success. This early experience in storytelling and production would later inform his unique approach to filmmaking.

After his stint at the BBC, Jewison moved to New York in 1958. It was here that he began to shape his directing style, working on various television shows for CBS. His transition from television to film was seamless, marked by a series of comedies for Universal. This period set the stage for his later success as an independent producer and director.

Jewison's move from acting and radio into directing was not just a career shift but a journey that would lead him to become one of the most respected figures in the film industry. His diverse background contributed to his unique perspective as a filmmaker, allowing him to craft stories that resonated with audiences worldwide.

Award-winning director and cultural icon

Jewison's contributions to film and television were recognized through numerous prestigious awards. Apart from his Oscar and Emmy wins, he was honored at the Berlin Film Festival, BAFTA, Donatello Award, and the Genie Award. These accolades are a testament to his skill and influence as a filmmaker.

In 2010, the Directors Guild of America awarded Jewison a Lifetime Achievement Award, acknowledging his lasting impact on the craft of directing. His work was celebrated in retrospectives presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Toronto International Film Festival, highlighting the enduring appeal of his films.

Jewison's commitment to the film industry extended beyond his work. He founded the Canadian Film Centre, playing a crucial role in nurturing talent in the Canadian film industry. His efforts were recognized when he received its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award, a fitting tribute to his dedication to cinema.

Remembering a life well-lived

Norman Jewison is survived by his wife Lynne St. David, his children, and grandchildren. His family, along with the entire film community, mourns the loss of a man who was not just a filmmaker but a visionary, a mentor, and a cultural icon.

Plans for Celebrations of Life in Los Angeles and Toronto are underway, offering an opportunity for friends, family, and admirers to commemorate Jewison's extraordinary life and career. These events will undoubtedly be a fitting tribute to a man whose work has touched so many lives.

Lesli Linka Glatter, President of the Directors Guild of America, encapsulated the sentiment of the film community in her statement on Jewison's passing. She described him as a "legendary Director" and a "DGA hero," emphasizing his role as a defender of directors and their creative rights.

Lessons to learn from this tragedy

Norman Jewison's life and career offer several valuable lessons:

  1. Jewison's journey from radio and acting to directing reminds us of the importance of diverse experiences in shaping one's career. His varied background contributed significantly to his unique approach to filmmaking.
  2. His mentorship of younger filmmakers and actors demonstrates the power of guidance and support in helping others achieve their dreams.
  3. Jewison's commitment to artistic integrity and justice, especially in reviving careers affected by the blacklist, shows the importance of standing up for what is right in the face of adversity.
  4. Lastly, Jewison's establishment of the Canadian Film Centre highlights the significance of giving back and nurturing future talent in one's field.

Why this story matters

The passing of Norman Jewison is not just the loss of a great filmmaker; it represents the end of an era in cinema. His films, which spanned genres and broke barriers, will continue inspiring and entertaining future generations. Jewison's dedication to his craft and his commitment to mentorship have left an indelible mark on the film industry. His legacy serves as a reminder of the power of cinema to transform, enlighten, and entertain.

  • Norman Jewison, the celebrated Canadian filmmaker, passed away at 97.
  • Jewison's career spanned over four decades with numerous awards and critical acclaim.
  • He significantly influenced the careers of filmmakers and actors.
  • Jewison's legacy includes his mentorship and contributions to both film and television.
  • Celebrations of Life will honor his memory in Los Angeles and Toronto.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.
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