Norman Jewison, Oscar-nominated director of ‘In the Heat of the Night,’ dead at 97

Norman Jewison, an Oscar-nominated Canadian director whose decades of work yielded a diverse resume that included Sidney Poitier-led drama “In the Heat of the Night” and 1971’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” has died, according to his publicist. He was 97.

Jewison died “peacefully” on Saturday, his publicist Jeff Sanderson told CNN in a statement on Monday. Sanderson did not specify a cause of death.

With a career spanning over 40 years, Jewison had several Oscar nominations, including three for best director and four for best picture as a producer – 1966’s “The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming,” 1971’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” 1984’s “A Soldier’s Story” and 1987’s “Moonstruck.” In 1999, he was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his body of work.

“The biggest grossing picture is not necessarily the best picture, so just tell stories that move us to laughter and tears and, perhaps, reveal a little truth about ourselves,” Jewison said in his acceptance speech.

“In The Heat of the Night,” starring Poitier and Lee Grant, won five Oscars, including best picture, but Jewison was the director, not a producer on that film.

Jewison had been in show business since the age of five, when he made his on-stage debut as a performer at the Malvern Collegiate Institute, according to an official biography. After serving time in the Royal Canadian Navy, Jewison earned a degree from Victoria College in Toronto.

Some of his first credits as a director were for television series in the 1950s, including “Your Hit Parade,” “The Andy Williams Show” and “The Fabulous Fifties.”

His cinematic directorial debut came in 1962, with Jewison behind the lens of the Tony Curtis-led comedy “40 Pounds of Trouble.” He continued to find success as a director in the years that followed with the 1965 classic “The Cincinnati Kid,” starring actor and racing legend Steve McQueen.

He teamed back up with McQueen in 1967 to direct the original “Thomas Crown Affair,” which was remade in 1999 starring Pierce Brosnan.

Known for his ability to cover a variety of topics in his work, Jewison directed the cinematic version of the hit Broadway play “Fiddler on the Roof” and the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” within two years of each other in the early 1970s.

He followed-up that duo of films with a war drama — 1984’s “A Soldier’s Story” — and “Moonstruck,” a family dramedy starring Cher, in 1987.

Jewison directed other iconic films throughout the 1980s, including “In Country,” starring Bruce Willis and Emily Lloyd, and “Other People’s Money.”

His last credited directorial offering came in 2003 with “The Statement,” a thriller starring Michael Caine and Tilda Swinton.

He is survived by his wife Lynne St. David, three children and five grandchildren.

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