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Norman Jewison, director of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'Fiddler on the Roof,' dies at 97

The Canadian filmmaker achieved 46 Oscar nominations and won the coveted statuette 12 times.

Imagen de archivo de 2005 del director canadiense Norman Jewison que falleció el 20 de enero de 2024 a los 97 años.

(Chris Delmas / AFP)

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Director Norman Jewison died last Saturday at the age of 97. The Canadian filmmaker, whose works include "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Fiddler on the Roof," died for reasons that the family did not wish to disclose. "Norman Jewison was a vibrant force in the film industry for more than four decades," his publicist Jeff Sanderson told the Los Angeles Times in the statement announcing his client's death.

Norman Jewison was born on July 21, 1926 in Toronto. The filmmaker began his acting career on the Canadian small screen during the 1950s. His first job was at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) where he directed several fictions such as "The Big Revue" and "Your Hit Parade." His way of working meant that, in 1962, he was invited to collaborate on American television where he directed programs and specials for personalities such as Harry Belafonte and Judy Garland, among others.

That same year he also made his directorial debut on the big screen. His first film was "40 Pounds of Trouble," starring Tony Curtis. Five years later he achieved his first film success. "In the Heat of the Night" which won five Oscars, including Best Picture.

They were the first statuettes he achieved out of a total of 12, in addition to 46 other nominations for works such as "Fiddler on the Roof," (1971) "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1973) or the eighties comedy, "Moonstruck," (1987) and are just a few among the more than 40 other projects he has worked on since he began his career.

Racism, a recurring theme in Norman Jewison's work

In all of these projects, one of their recurring themes was racism. Something that, he himself stated during his autobiography titled "This Terrible Business Has Been Good for Me," made Americans uncomfortable:

Any time a movie deals with racism, many Americans feel uncomfortable. You have to face it. We have to deal with prejudice and injustice, or we will never understand what is good and evil, right and wrong; We need to feel how the other person feels.

However, his films made citizens reconsider this issue. Something that the president of the Directors Guild of America, Lesli Linka Glatter, highlighted in a statement in which she lamented the death of Norman Jewison:

Today we mourn the loss of a legendary Director. Known for his influential and impactful filmography over many decades, Norman was also one of our DGA heroes – a warrior and champion always ready to defend his fellow Directors, their creative rights and the craft of directing. Norman’s cinematic range was truly remarkable—few filmmakers can so fluidly and eloquently move between romantic comedies, dramas and musicals as he did. But his most powerful films, and those he said were his "dearest," tackled racism and injustice, including 'In the Heat of the Night' and 'A Soldier's Story,' both of which brought DGA Awards nominations. For his outstanding representation of the Director’s craft, we awarded him in 2010 with the Guild’s top honor, the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award.