Norman Jewison — the acclaimed director of such classic Hollywood movies as In the Heat of the Night, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Thomas Crown Affair — has died. He was 97.
Jewison died Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. No cause of death was given.
In an eclectic Hollywood career that spanned six decades, Norman Jewison found his calling in both directing and producing, choosing subjects that often had strong social themes, though he also had a taste for musicals and comedies.
He earned acclaim for his direction of actors, eliciting strong performances that resulted in Oscars for Rod Steiger in In the Heat of the Night as well Cher and Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck. He also directed nine other actors to nominations, including Denzel Washington for The Hurricane, and Topol for the 1971 adaptation of the musical Fiddler on the Roof.
Jewison directed five movies that were nominated for best picture, with In the Heat of the Night winning in 1968. Though he never won an Oscar himself, despite seven nominations, he received the Irving Thalberg Award in 1999 in recognition of his work as a producer.
The Canadian-born Jewison got his start in television, working as a writer-director for CBC Television during the 1950s before jumping to NBC where he specialized in celebrity “specials,” including one for Judy Garland in 1961.
The following year, Jewison was hired by Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh to direct what would be his first feature film, 40 Pounds of Trouble. He quickly became a hot Hollywood commodity, directing movies starring Rock Hudson, Doris Day, James Garner, and Steve McQueen.
His first major hit was The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming in 1966. The Cold War ensemble comedy was a box-office smash and received four Oscar nominations, including best picture.
Jewison’s follow-up turned out to be his biggest success — In the Heat of the Night, which won best picture in 1968. Starring Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier, the drama told the story of a black police officer who teams up with a small-town Southern police chief to solve a murder.
In the Heat of the Night was noteworthy for its tackling race relations at a time when the civil rights movement was still in full swing. The movie’s topicality made it a popular as well as a critical hit, further cementing both Steiger’s and Poitier’s star status.
Jewison followed up with another hit — The Thomas Crown Affair, starring Steven McQueen and Faye Dunaway.
During the 70s, he turned to musicals, adapting Fiddler on the Roof for the big screen. The story of life on a Jewish shtetl in czarist Russia proved to be a huge box-office success, becoming the highest grossing movie of 1971. The movie, which was nominated for eight Oscars, is still a popular repertory cinema favorite.
Jewison also directed the big screen adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar.
During the 80s, Jewison’s biggest hit was Moonstruck, his 1987 Oscar winner with Cher and Nicolas Cage. Set in Brooklyn’s working class Italian-American community, the movie mixed romance, opera, and ethnic humor with considerable finesse, resulting in a box-office smash.
Jewison’s other directorial credits include Rollerball, … And Justice for All, A Soldier’s Story, and The Hurricane.
His last movie was the 2003 Michael Caine drama The Statement.
His first wife, Margaret Ann Dixon, died in 2004, and Jewison re-married in 2010 to his second wife, Lynne St. David, who survives him along with children and grandchildren.