A good solid director, if not a brilliant one, Jewison has turned out a string of popular movies that address important social and political issues. He is known for being able to wrangle great performances out of his actors. He also produces and has acted.
Jewison was born in Toronto, Canada in 1926. As a teenager he staged plays and acted at his private high school, which was also attended by Glenn Gould. When he was 18 he spent a summer hitch-hiking around the American south, giving him a grittier view of racism than he would get in genteel Toronto; some of his best movies reflect his sense of outrage at what he saw. He served with the navy for a time, returning in 1946 to earn his BA at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1950. Thereafter he drove cab for a while and found occasional work as an actor, then went to London on a work/study program with the BBC. From 1953 to 1958, back in Canada, he worked for the CBC directing TV shows, after which he was signed up by CBS in New York. He worked on variety shows with the likes of Danny Kaye, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, and Judy Garland; this work earned him three Emmy awards.
After his first feature-length film, "40 Pounds of Trouble", he signed a contract with Universal Studios. He received attention for with "The Cincinnati Kid" and "In the Heat of the Night", which netted him his first Oscar nomination. He got some notice for "Thomas Crown Affair", a movie which, though very dated now, was considered quite revolutionary at the time with its split screen imagery. He had a huge hit with "Fiddler on the Roof" and got another Oscar nod, though some wags dubbed him "Norman Christianson" for weeding out much of the ethnic character of the movie. Other popular offerings include "A Soldier's Story" (which, incidentally, introduced the largely unknown Denzel Washington to the movie-going public), "Moonstruck" and "The Hurricane".
Norman Jewison became an officer of The Order of Canada in 1982 and a companion of the order in 1993. In 1986 he founded the Canadian Center for Advanced Film Studies in Toronto. He has a farm in Ontario.
Jewison has never won an Oscar, but has been personally nominated for four and has seen his films receive 45 nominations and 12 Academy Awards. In 1999 he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for "outstanding achievement in directing". He is married and has three children.
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