Movie Review – Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Written by Joseph Stein
Directed by Norman Jewison

By this time in his career, Norman Jewison had become dismayed over the political climate in the United States. It was clear that the government was meeting the multiple cultural uprisings and movements with hostility and brutality. He decided to move his family to England, which is where his subsequent few productions were based. Having gained considerable clout for his work on In the Heat of the Night and The Thomas Crown Affair, Jewison was offered to direct a film adaptation of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. The themes of Fiddler seem right in Jewison’s wheelhouse, but it was his first musical, so that aspect of the film remained to be seen until its release. The result is one of Jewison’s best pictures.

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Movie Review – The Thomas Crown Affair

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Written by Alan Trustman
Directed by Norman Jewison

In the late 1960s, filmmaking was undergoing a transformation. It was happening both in the counter-culture, becoming prominent in the content but also in technological changes. At Expo 67, the World’s Fair held in Montreal, a pair of films showed off the revolutionary split-screen technique pioneered by Christopher Chapman. Chapman was a Canadian-born cinematographer that created the multi-dynamic image technique or “the Brady Bunch effect.” This allowed him to composite multiple film images into grids of varying sizes. This allowed a single scene to be shown from various angles and character perspectives. After Norman Jewison saw the films in exhibition at Expo 67, he wanted to use it in his new movie The Thomas Crown Affair, seeing it as useful when showing the heist scenes.

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Movie Review – In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Written by Stirling Silliphant
Directed by Norman Jewison

In the Heat of the Night was a huge film in terms of its pop-culture resonance for a few decades, yet it is almost forgotten in our current age. I was aware of the seven-season television sequel that premiered in 1988. I recently discovered Sidney Poitier continued to play the character of Virgil Tibbs in two sequels. There are also seven novels in the Tibbs series. Now I’m sure not all of this media is as great as this movie, but it’s so strange for a character to have been that prominent only to have entirely vanished from the cultural discourse. As presented in this film, the character is so compelling that I have to believe the following productions just didn’t live up to the bar set by In the Heat of the Night.

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Movie Review – The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966)
Written by William Rose
Directed by Norman Jewison

In the 1960s, the Cold War was at a wild peak. Just three years before this film, the United States & Cuba went through a terrifying week of possible nuclear war. In the 1940s & 50s, dozens of Hollywood screenwriters, actors, and other people in the industry were labeled as communists or sympathizers to the Soviet Union. Jewison never really hid his left-leaning political views but knew to reveal them slowly as he became a more prominent director in Hollywood. For The Cincinnati Kid, he worked with blacklist screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. on the script. Going even further was this film, a comedy that reveals Americans’ twisted ideology during this manic period. Jewison still finds empathy for these people and seeks to find a place of mutual understanding. 

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Movie Review – The Cincinnati Kid

The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
Written by Ring Lardner Jr. and Terry Southern
Directed by Norman Jewison

Norman Jewison was not the first director to work on this production. Edward G. Robinson wasn’t the first choice for the main antagonist either. But through a series of circumstances & disagreements during filming, the film changed and became something else. Sam Peckinpah was the first director in charge of The Cincinnati Kid. Apparently, the producers believe Peckinpah “vulgarized” the film and fired him after a few days of shooting. Spencer Tracey had pulled out due to poor health, and Robinson stepped in. Peckinpah had planned to shoot the picture in black & white due to its Depression setting. That was changed to color when Jewison was brought on board. Would the Peckinpah version have been better? We’ll never really know but what we did end up with was a very enjoyable movie about poker.

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Movie Review – Send Me No Flowers

Send Me No Flowers (1964)
Written Julius J. Epstein
Directed by Norman Jewison

Norman Jewison isn’t a name you hear listed among the great film auteurs, and for the most part, he was fairly a journeyman filmmaker. A studio paid him, and he made the movie. But in doing that, he still managed to make each picture feel special. You could never tie him into a single genre or style. Jewison just made good movies. He was born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1926, and despite his last name, his family is not of Jewish descent. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. After being discharged, he wandered through the American South, where he witnessed acts of segregation that would impact film projects he chose later in his career. Back in Toronto, Jewison got his bachelor’s degree and worked on a variety of theatrical productions. He eventually became part of the crew that launched CBC Television, working as an assistant director. 

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