Norman Jewison

(Copyright © 1999-2022 Piero Scaruffi | TErms of use )

4.0 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962)
5.0 The Thrill of It All (1963)
4.0 Send Me No Flowers (1964)
4.0 The Art of Love (1965)
6.8 The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
7.0 The Russians Are Coming (1966)
7.0 In The Heat of the Night (1967)
7.2 The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
7.0 Rollerball (1975)
6.0 F.I.S.T. (1978)
6.0 And Justice for All (1979)
6.5 A Soldier's Story (1984)
6.8 Agnes of God (1985)
6.5 Moonstruck (1987)
6.5 Other People's Money (1991)
6.7 Hurricane (1999)
4.0 The Statement (2003)


Norman Jewison (Canada, 1926) debuted with comedies such as 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), The Thrill of It All (1963), Send Me No Flowers (1964) and The Art of Love (1965).

The Thrill Of It All (1963), scripted by Carl Reiner, is a lightweight comedy with an implausible, stereotyped, slow and not funny plot (with disturbing reactionary overtones).

A middle-aged woman in an elevator is ecstatic: she is pregnant. Ecstatic, she tells her husband, the son of a tycoon. The wealthy couple calls their gynaecologist, Gerald, to thank him for the "miracle" and invite him to a dinner. The doctor's wife Beverly (Doris Day), a typical housewife who spends her day taking care of a girl and a boy, is the hit of the evening when she tells the tycoon, owner of a soap business, that she likes his soap. The old man hires her to advertise his product, but her first appearance live on television is a disaster. Instead her honesty wins over the masses, and the old man offers her an even higher sum to continue advertising for him. Beverly becomes a tv star, rivaling her husband in income. Needless to say, her husband becomes jealous of her career and disturbed by the turmoil that it is causing to their family life. One night, shocked to see a giant billboard of his wife, he stops in the middle of the road and is fined by the police. He tries to win back the mother in Beverly by seducing her into having another baby, but they can't even dine in peace, as fans ask Beverly for autographs, and at night she's too tired. In the morning, not knowing that his wife has ordered a swimming pool, he drivesthe car straight into it. Before going to sleep, Gerald dumps all their boxes of soap into the pool. In the morning the house is submerged by a giant bubble of foam. The doctor tries a new strategy: jealousy. He pretends to be having an affair and to come home drunk. It works. She is seriously worried. When the lady finally delivers the baby (in a limo stuck in traffic), husband and wife finally make peace. She decides to give up her career and be just a housewife.

Send Me No Flowers (1964) is a comedy that doesn't quite succeed in creating a memorable character or telling memorable jokes.

George is happily married to Judy, but he has a fixation: he thinks he has all the possible diseases. He sees the doctor about a chest pain. It is only an indigestion, but George overhears the doctor talking of a patient who has only a few weeks to live and thinks he is the one. He tells the dreadful news only to his friend and neighbor Arnold, deciding to spare his wife. But then he decides that his wife needs to find a new husband who can take care of her, and even tries to set her up with an old flame of hers. Unfortunately this backfires when his wife finds him being kissed by a woman at a party. She thinks he is having an affair and wants her to find her own lover. He tells her the truth: that he is dying and only cares about her. This works until she meets the doctor, who laughs at the idea. Then she goes back to her original suspicion and kicks him out of the house. Soon, the whole town knows that he is having an affair. The old flame takes advantage of the situation and George's plan almost succeeds in bringing them together again.

The Cincinnati Kid (1965) was his first drama.

In New Orleans in the 1930s, a young poker player (Steve McQueen), who has a simple affectionate girlfriend, has the chance to challenge a much older player (Edward Robinson), who is a rich gentleman and is considered the greatest living poker player (and destroyed the reputation of McQueen's best friend when he was at the peak of his career). The game is announced all over town, and eventually takes place in the best hotel. They play day and night, destroying all the other players. During the pauses of their marathon poker game the two rivals have very civilized chats. When the Kid realizes that his friend is dealing cards to favor him, he calls for a break, tells the friend he doesn't want any cheating, has sex with his friend's girl (who has been trying to seduce him the whole time) and is surprised by his own girlfriend who catches them together. There is another man who is trying to profit from a Kid victory and works in cahoots with the Kid's friend. The Kid does not want any help, and has his friend replaced by one of the old player's best friends. But the Kid overestimates himself: the old player beats him.

The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming (1966), based on Nathaniel Benchley's novel "The Off-Islanders", is a fantapolitical comedy.

A group of Russians from a Soviet submarine are accidentally stranded on an island off the coast of the USA. Two English-speaking Russians go into town with the goal of finding a motorboat to return to the submarine. They approach a nice family pretending to be Norwegian sailors but the clever boy figures out that they are Russians and the Russians are forced to pull out the guns. The sensible father, Walt (Carl Reiner), realizes that these are simple men with no evil intentions and cooperated, but his boy, brainwashed to believe the Russians are monsters, accuses him of being a traitor, and Walt's wife (Eva Marie Saint) too pressures him to act. One of the two Russians "borrows" their car to go and rescue the rest of the crew, but the car breaks down and they have to walk back to town. In the meantime, the young blonde Alison comes to see the family and gives the father the opportunity to attack the Russian who is guarding the family. The poor Russian runs away chased by the family's dog. The other Russians are stealing the car of an elderly lady, who manages to make a phone call to the operator. She in turn calls the police chief. The police chief is skeptic because the old lady has a record of imagining things. When he is finally convinced that something has happened to the old lady, he calls his only helper, who initially can't find the gun but then spreads the rumour that the Russians have landed. This starts the panic. A veteran organizes a militia of volunteers that gets ready to defend the town. Walt is biking into town to tell the police chief what has happened. Before he can reach the town, he sees a caravan of cars heading for the "front" (the local miniscule airport). He is soon kidnapped by the Russians, who also kidnap the town's receptionist. Walt cooperates again with the Russians, convinced that they only want to borrow a motorboat, but the receptionist too thinks he's a traitor. The Russians try to wear Western clothes and speak English, but they are immediately recognized by a little boy. In the meantime, the Russian soldier who was chased by the dog approaches is discovered by the cute blonde who is touched by his kind manners and cures his wounds and feeds him. They soon fall in love and are running romantically at sunset on the beach. The police chief (still skeptic) has tried in vain to restrain the fanatic veteran and his militia, and eventually they get into a fight. Walk, who has been freed by his wife, gets both English-speaking Russians in his car and tries to help. But it's too late. Having lost track of its men, the Soviet submarine si entering the harbor. The whole population listens at the submarine's commander and the English-speaking Russian discussing the situation. The commander is threatening to destroy the village if the village does not release the seven Russians who are missing. The police chief arrives on a jeep and declares the Soviet commander under arrest. The commander declares that he is ready to blow up the town. The men of the town point their guns towards the submarine. War is about to start when a boy slips down from the clcoktower and is hanging from the roof. The men drop the guns and rush to help the child. The meek Russian who is in love with the blonde saves the child risking his life. Everybody claps their hands. Just then the fanatic veteran runs screaming that he managed to call the air force and the coast guard. The good people of the village realize what that means: the Russians will be annihilated. The folks rush to their little boats to provide an escort for the submarine. When the air force flies over the submarine, there is nothing they can do. The submarine sails away.

In The Heat Of The Night (1967), based on the novel by John Ball, is a drama about a black police detective who has to cooperate with a racist sheriff.

In a small southern town, a white policeman patroling the deserted streets at night finds a dead body, the body of a wealthy man who was about to open a factory in town. The following night he finds a black man apparently loitering in the train station. The policeman immediately proceeds to arrest him, taking for granted that a black man is a criminal. The idiot takes the black man to his boss, who also assumes the black man's guilt, especially after finding money in his pockets. It turns out that the black man, Virgil, is... a police officer from Philadelphia, and a homicide expert. Virgil's boss, consulted by phone, suggests that he stays and helps the clueless small-town sheriff. Neither Virgil or the small-town chief like the idea, but the chief knows that he needs an expert and asks him to take a look at the corpse. The two men end up carrying out the investigation together. Initially, they distrust and dislike each other, but slowly they come to understand and appreciate each other. Virgil steers the investigation in the right direction, and eventually focuses on a powerful man, which should have been the obvious suspect from the beginning because of his opposition to the dead man's plans. Virgil and the sheriff drive to his mansion to confront him. He slaps Virgil in the face, outraged that a black man would treat him like a criminal, but Virgil simply replies in kind. Then a group of psychotic racist boys try to kill Virgil on the highway and then corner him in a warehouse, but the sheriff saves him. Virgil is now openly challenging the racial prejudices of the town. In order to save the peace of the town and his own career, the sheriff would like to arrest someone else, and picks on the very police officer who found the dead body, Sam, but Virgil knows that Sam has nothing to do with it, and in fact a silly sexy teenage girl comes forth to testify that he was with her that night, and even got pregnant of it. Virgil eventually senses that the girl is the solution to the puzzle: she did get pregnant, but not of Sam. He eventually finds her when she's about to have an abortion, and finds her real boyfriend, the nervous owner of a diner. Just then the racists show up again. Virgil is about to get killed by everybody when he tells the girl's brother to check her purse for the abortion money, that proves his story. The jealous brother tries to kill the pervert lover, but the pervert shoots first. Virgil grabs a gun and freezes everybody. The nerd confesses that he killed the factory owner because he refused to hire him. Now that the case is solved, it is finally time for Virgil to go back home. The sheriff in person takes him to the station, carrying his suitcase.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) is a comedy that employs visual tricks, notably Pablo Ferro's "multiple split-screen" polo scene.

The film begins with an elaborate heist in a bank (a lengthy and not particularly original scene). Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) follows the scene from a high-rise building with binoculars. It turns out that the mastermind, Thomas Crown, is a bored tycoon, for whom the heist was only a way to entertain himself. He picks up the money at a cemetery and goes back to his international jet-set lifestyle. The police are clueless, but a clever and attractive insurance investigator, Vicki, senses that Thomas Crown is the man who did it. Vicki tracks down Thomas and begins a seduction job. At the same time, she has no scruples breaking the law to get what she needs: she kidnaps the child of a member of the gang, and when he pays ransom she confronts him about the money, to make him confess he was part of the gang. Vicki and Thomas become more intimate, despite the fact that she tells him what her job is and that she suspects him, and they play a game at outsmarting each other. The police detective who in theory partners with Vicki is disgusted by her methods, that border on prostitution. Perhaps he is also jealous that Thomas is getting it. But, mostly, they have the fun of their time. Thomas proposes a deal, and Vicki would accept it, but the police detective says no. So Thomas decides to do it again, and he tells Vicki. If Vicki wants, she can tell the police and have him arrested. He's testing her love. He does it, and she does it. His gang performs the same superb job, and deposits the money at the cemetery. Vicki and the police are waiting at the cemetery to arrest Thomas when he comes to pick it up. Instead, a funeral procession rolls into the cemetery. Thomas doesn't come, but sends a limousine with a telegram: he is on a plane, and invites her to join him.

He returned to the comedy with Gaily Gaily (1969).

He moved to Britain and directed the adaptations of Broadway musicals: Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973).

After the western Billy Two Hats (1974), he directed Rollerball (1975), a dystopian sci-fi movie written by William Harrison. The film is often slow and generally overlong but it is notable for some visual effects, for the futuristic view of a society run by a computer, and for the portrait of a gladiator who challenges the system and survives.

The film is set in the future (year 2018). Players and spectators enter an arena. Two teams of players engage in a "rollerball" game, a violent game that mixes the spirit of rugby, rollerskating and motorcycling. The fearless Jonathan is the star of the sport. After the game the old man who represents the team's sponsor, Bartholomew, congratulates the team but summons Jonathan to tell him that the executives of the corporation want him to retire. We learn that there are no nations, there is no poverty, there are no diseases. The world is run by corporations. Jonathan is still angry that the corporation took his wife Ella to give her to an executive, and is reluctant to obey the order to retire. Jonathan lives in a ranch with Mackie, a girl who has been assigned to him six months earlier. When he arrives, she tells him that she has been ordered to leave. Jonathan's best friend is his old coach Cletus, who remembers when there were three nations in the planet before the "corporate wars". Jonathan spends hours watching old videos of his wife Ella. Jonathan asks Cletus to find out why they want him to retire. Jonathan and his teammate Moonpie visit a library to look for boths on the corporate wars but the clerk tells them that all the books have been digitized into a computer. Back home he finds a new girl, Daphne. Jonathan decides to continue playing. The team is told that the next game will be played under new, more lethal rules. Meanwhile the corporation hires a director to shoot Jonathan's retirement announcement to be broadcast during a TV special on his career, but Jonathan refuses to read the prepared text. The corporation throws a classy party to watch the TV special. Cletus tells Jonathan that he only learned that it's not Batholomew but the top executives who want Jonathan to resign. Somehow they are afraid of Jonathan. After the TV special, Jonathan tells Batholomew that he has two demands: to see Ella and to be allowed to play the next game in Tokyo. Jonathan flies to Tokyo with the team and plays. The game is deadly and his teammate Moonpie remains braindead. At the end of the game the hospital doctor begs Jonathan to sign a release so that they can let Moonpie die but Jonathan refuses. Meanwhile, Bartholomew presides a remote meeting of the executives who approve that Jonathan must lose. While Cletus takes Moonpie's body back home, Jonathan flies to Geneva where the supercomputer is hosted. A professor welcomes him although he feels miserable because the supercomputer, named Zero, just lost all the knowledge about the 13th century. The professor escorts Jonathan to the room where Zero is located. Zero, however, refuses to answer any question about the corporations. Back home Jonathan is visited by Ella, sent by the executives to convince him to retire. They have sex and chat, but Jonathan realizes that she is no longer what he remembers. He deletes the videotape of her that he kept watching and sends her away. Jonathan visits Moonpie who is still braindead. The executives change the rules of rollerball again: this time the plan is clearly that all players should die. Jonathan survives to the end. He kills several members of the opposing team but spares the last one. The spectators who have been cheering ecstatic go silent. He then scores the victory for this team and is acclaimed as the winner.

F.I.S.T. (1978) was a biopic of union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

Back in Canada, he directed the drama And Justice for All (1979) and the comedy Best Friends (1982).

He then adapted two theatrical plays: A Soldier's Story (1984), from a Charles Fuller play, and Agnes Of God (1985), from a John Pielmeier play.

Moonstruck (1987) is a light-hearted comedy, full of funny characters, set in New York's Little Italy, reminiscent of Woody Allen.

Loretta lives with her parents and grandparents in a big mansion. Johnny proposes to Loretta, a 37-year old widow, in a restaurant and Loretta accepts. But Johnny has to depart immediately to visit his sick mother in Sicily, and asks Loretta to take care of the details. Those include inviting his estranged younger brother, Ronnie. Since Ronnie refuses to talk to her over the phone, Loretta has to walk to his bakery and talk to him in person. Ronnie sounds completely deranged and tells her that he hates Johnny because Johnny involuntarily caused the accident that lost Ronnie his hand and his fiance`. Despite this harsh encounter, the two fall madly in love with each other. She regrets it and Ronnie promises not to tell, but wants her to grant him one last wish: to be his date at the opera just for one night. In the meantime, Loretta's mom Rose is courted by a middle-age college professor (who specializes in being dumped by his young attractive students at the same restaurant where Johnny proposed to Loretta) while her plumber husband Cosmo has a not-too-secret affair.
Ronnie decides he doesn't want to break up and even faces the parents of Loretta. During the meal Rose, who has rejected the professor, asks her husband (in front of everybody) to stop seeing his lover. And he just says "yes". Then Johnny arrives and Loretta is ready to tell him the truth, but, surprise, Johnny has decided to cancel the wedding, because a wedding would break his month's heart. So Ronnie stands up and asks Loretta to marry him instead. And she accepts in front of everybody.

In Country (1989) is a drama about Vietnam veterans.

Other People's Money (1991) is an adaptation of Jerry Sterner's off-Broadway satiric play about the greediness of the 1980s (reminiscent of Frank Capra's moral tales).

Larry (DeVito) is a selfish, greedy, cold, calculating, rude businessman who frantically makes deals from his skyscraper office. He has invested in a company run wisely by a good, old-fashioned family man, Jorgy (Gregory Peck), and his wife, the very quintessence of kindness. The company is in excellent shape but one division is losing money. Jorgy refuses Larry's offer to liquidate the weak division, both because it was founded by the family and because he cares for the workers. Larry begins takeover proceedings and Jorgy has to ask for help from his daughter Kate, a successful attorney and a gorgeous blonde, who matches Larry in ruthlessness.
The bulk of the film is the duel between the man and the woman, as Larry gets romantically involved with the woman of his dreams who happens to be fighting him ferociously. In the meantime, Jorgy's trusted partner does not hesitate his shareholder votes to the evil raider while Kate's mom offers all her savings to Larry in exchange for his surrender.
The showdown is at the annual stockholder meeting. First, Jorgy makes his appeal to respect and protect hard-working Americans and rants against Wall Street predators who kill when something is worth more if dead than if alive. Larry ridicules Jorgy's speech and turns the crowd around: greed prevails and the stockholders vote for Larry.
But, for the first time, Larry is not happy. But, in a sudden turn of events (and one of the most terrible endings in the history of Hollywood), Kate finds a deal that would resurrect the ailing division and Larry accepts to sell back the shares he bought.

After the romantic comedy Only You (1994), the children's movie Bogus (1996), he returned to the theme of racism with The Hurricane (1999)

(Recensito da Lorenzo Casaccia)
Per chi conosce l'omonima bellissima canzone, i primi minuti del film non sono che la messa in immagini dei versi di Bob Dylan. Il resto del film ne e' la continuazione. The Hurricane e' Rubin Carter, asso del pugilato accusato per il colore della pelle di un omicidio che non aveva commesso. Carter esiste realmente ed ha scontato un paio di decenni di carcere prima che la sua innocenza venisse riconosciuta, come racconta il film. La prima parte e i frequenti flash-back tracciano il profilo di Rubin, uno dei tanti neri di ghetto portato dalla strada al pugilato per spirito di rivalsa contro il mondo. La lettura della sua storia emoziona un ragazzo di colore, che ne vede l'ennesima oppressione ai danni dei neri, e spinge il bizzarro nucleo semi-familiare di cui fa parte (lui, due uomini e una donna canadesi soci in affari) ad interessarsi, per l'ennesima volta al caso. La vicenda giudiziaria, i rapporti tra i personaggi e gli eventi sono abbastanza spiegati per avere una comprensione di quel che e' successo, ma nel complesso restano un po' offuscati. Fa eccezione l'ammirazione del ragazzo che vede in Rubin un secondo padre, che ne ha cambiato la vita. Le scene migliori sono i vari flash-back e le ricostruzioni del passato di Rubin, che, evitando una retorica che sarebbe stata fuori luogo, non viene disegnato come un santo a posteriori. Rubin Carter e' Denzel Washington, arrogante nella parte del pugile giovane, saggio e posato nella parte del condannato rassegnato. (6/10)

His last film was the thriller The Statement (2003).

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