Director Norman Jewison dies, he directed Jesus Christ Superstar: he was 97 years old

Five times Oscar winner, his films also include ‘The Hot Night of Inspector Tibbs’, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, ‘Rollerball’, ‘Agnes of God’ and ‘Moonstruck’

AND’ Canadian director Norman Jewison has died, who directed such memorable films as ‘The Hot Night of Inspector Tibbs’, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘Rollerball’, ‘Agnes of God’ and ‘Moonstruck’. The filmmaker passed away at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 97 on Saturday, January 20, as announced by publicist Jeff Sanderson on behalf of the family.

Between the Sixties and the Eighties, Jewison – progressive author of a cinema of civil commitment and very technically innovative – collected a long series of successes with seven Oscar nominations, winning the statuette for Best Film five times . He won the Silver Bear for director in 1988 at the Berlin Film Festival for ‘Moonstruck’ and received the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award, awarded to him at the Academy Awards in 1999 in recognition of his career. Known for coaxing great performances from his actors—12 of his actors were nominated for Oscars—the most illustrious director in Canadian history often used conventional genre plots to address themes of social injustice.

Born in Toronto on 21 July 1926, after graduating in 1950 Norman Jewison moved to London, where in two years he learned the rules of the profession of television writer at the BBC. Returning to his hometown, he worked on Canadian television CBC from 1953 to 1958, and then directed and produced various musical shows in New York, including some episodes of ‘The Judy Garland show’ (1962-63). In Hollywood he made his directorial debut with the Disney film ’20 Kilos of Trouble… and a Ton of Joy’ (1962), followed by some comedies, two of which starred Doris Day: ‘That Sure I Don’t Know What’ (1963 ) and ‘Don’t Send Me Flowers’ (1964).

He established himself as an innovative filmmaker with the fifth film ‘Cincinnati Kid’ (1965), where he metaphorically analyzes social dynamics and their conflict, presenting poker games between the young challenger (Steve McQueen) and the elderly and now established opponent ( Edward G. Robinson) as authentic duels. This film was followed by ‘The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming’ (1966), the first work to also be produced by the director and first Oscar nomination for best film.

Since then, the world torn apart by racism became a constant in Norman Jewison’s filmography, with an ideal trilogy on intolerance towards African Americans in the United States: the anti-racist crime drama ‘The Hot Night of Inspector Tibbs’ (1967), for which he received an Oscar nomination for directing, a film based on the character of an African-American detective played by Sidney Poitier; ‘The Story of a Soldier’ ​​(1984), again nominated for an Oscar as best film; and ‘Hurricane – The Cry of Innocence’ (1999), which transforms the story of the boxer Rubin Carter into an indictment of the US police and judicial system.

Norman Jewison in several films has investigated the established authority, which tramples justice, legality and solidarity, as in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ (1968) and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ (1971), a musical revisitation of anti-Semitism in Tsarist Russia , which earned two Oscar nominations for directing and film. One of his greatest successes was ‘Jesus Christ, superstar’ (1973), to which the director also contributed as a screenwriter, collaborating on the original reworking of the theatrical musical.

Jewison then directed ‘Rollerball’ (1975), one of the cornerstones of 1970s sociology fiction; ‘…and justice for all’ (1979). ‘Other People’s Money’ (1991) represents one of the most successful and relentless satires of the wild capitalism and free market of the 1980s, personified by the rapacious businessman Garfield (Danny DeVito).

Worth mentioning among his other films: ‘FIST’ (1978), ‘Amici come prima’ (1982), ‘Agnese di Dio’ (1985), ‘Stregata dalla luna’ (1987), ‘Vietnam: truth to forget’ ( 1989), ‘Only You’ (1994), ‘Bogus’ (1996), ‘Hurricane’ (1999), ‘Dinner with Friends’ (2001) and ‘The Sentence’ (2003).

(by Paolo Martini)