Norman Jewison
Norman JewisonREUTERS/Fred Prouser

Canadian-born film director Norman Jewison, known for “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Moonstruck” and the Oscar-winning “In the Heat of the Night,” has died at the age of 97, The Associated Press reported on Monday.

Jewison, a three-time Oscar nominee who in 1999 received an Academy Award for lifetime achievement, died “peacefully” on Saturday, his publicist Jeff Sanderson said. Additional details were not immediately available.

Jewison was born in Toronto, Ontario on July 21, 1926. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1944 to 1945 during World War II, and after being discharged travelled in the American South, where he had a close-up view of segregation. He later attended Victoria College in the University of Toronto, graduating with a B.A. in 1949. Following graduation, he moved to London before returning to Canada in late 1951 to become a production trainee at CBLT-TV in Toronto, which was preparing for the launch of CBC Television.

He drew upon his experiences for the 1967 movie “In the Heat of the Night,” starring Rod Steiger as a white racist small-town sheriff and Sidney Poitier as a Black detective from Philadelphia trying to help solve a murder and eventually forming a working relationship with the hostile local lawman. The movie won an Academy Award for best picture.

He received two other Oscar nominations: For “Moonstruck,” a beloved romantic comedy for which Cher won an Academy Award, and “Fiddler on the Roof”, which Jewison said was offered to him under the mistaken belief he was Jewish due to his surname.

Jewison’s other notable films included the Cold War spoof “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” the Steve McQueen thriller “The Thomas Crown Affair” and two movies featuring Denzel Washington: the racial drama “A Soldier’s Story” and “The Hurricane,” starring Washington as wrongly imprisoned boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

Jewison and his wife Margaret Ann Dixon had three children, sons Kevin and Michael and daughter Jennifer Ann, who became an actress and appeared in the Jewison films “Agnes of God” and “Best Friends.” The Jewisons were married 51 years, until her death in 2004. He married Lynne St. David in 2010.