Author Ira Wells spent three years working on "Norman Jewison: A Director's Life." A full year of that was pouring over Jewison's papers, annotated scripts and other manuscripts at Victoria College at the University of Toronto -- where Wells is an assistant professor of literature.
He writes that Jewison's 24 feature films "could just as easily have been a dozen, or three or none." Despite directing two films -- "In the Heat of the Night" and "Moonstruck"-- to Best Picture Oscar wins, landing the next film deal never got any easier. It helped that behind Jewison's nice guy, all-Canadian persona, beats the heart of a lion. As Burt Reynolds once mused, "He must be able to kick the shit out of people in meetings."
Jewison's other talent was to be the director he needed to be in relation to the talent at hand. He could be, as Wells describes him, "a nurturing father figure, a wise older brother, on old fling." Sometimes he was all three on the same film, as he was on the set of "Agnes of God."
Wells goes through Jewison's diverse catalogue -- "The Russians Are Coming...," "The Thomas Crown Affair," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Rollerball," "A Soldier's Story" and "The Hurricane," among others. He takes us through the director's early days at the CBC in Toronto as well as directing superstars such as Judy Garland and Harry Belafonte in American television. He addresses Jewison's passion for mentoring the next generations of filmmakers with the Canadian Film Centre.
The title of Jewison's own 2004 autobiography is "This Terrible Business Has Been Good to Me" and he meant it. As Wells writes, "The image that emerges from the thousands of pages of letters, contracts, memos, production schedules, casting notes, draft screenplays and countless other documents is of a director fighting for every frame of his vision."