Private Screenings: Norman Jewison

TCM Presents An (uninspiring) Evening with Norman Jewison, hosted by venerable film historian and TCM on-air personality Robert Osborne this Thursday, September 13th.

Turner Classic Movies is well known to be ‘the’ premiere movie channel for anyone who loves classic cinema. Robert Osborne’s knowledge of the facts and history of film classics makes his hosting of TCM’s series “Private Screenings” a delightful addition to its regular programming. In the past, “Private Screenings” has had such luminous guests as Angela Landsbury, Robert Mitchum, and on one occasion Walter Mattthau & Jack Lemmon together.

With this in mind, I sat down with great anticipation to watch a preview of TCM’s latest installment. On September 13th, TCM will air Robert Osborne’s one on one conversation with Norman Jewison. Unfortunately, as promising as that seemed it was a disappointment. It’s not that Jewison’s career has not been a strong and varied one. He has created such remarkable films as In The Heat of The Night, The Russians Are Coming – The Russians Are Coming, Fiddler On The Roof, A Soldier’s Story, The Hurricane, and Moonstruck among others. It is just that this episode of “Private Screenings” lacks the usual insights and revelations that Mr. Osborne traditionally has drawn out of his guests. Nothing is surprising or particularly revealing. The show boils down to two men going over territory most classic film devotees have heard before.

You would think a man who’s career spans fifty years, beginning in television directing the likes of Judy Garland in her now famous TV special, and has been responsible for some of the most socially conscious films would have some pretty profound and intriguing accounts to share. No such luck here. Perhaps editing and the show’s one-hour time constraint prevented Jewison’s stories from playing out. Whatever the reason, what remains is a recounting of situations that have been told again and again. The effect is little more than an elongated version of one of Osborne’s informative mini-lectures presented before and after the films on TCM. It should be noted that almost fifteen years ago “Inside The Actors Studio” also had Jewison as a guest and it was a much more satisfactory experience.

No doubt Norman Jewison himself is a very nice man. He is all smiles during the interview and seems to really love the life he has had the pleasure to lead in the film industry. By all accounts there’s not a person in the industry who has a bad thing to say against him, and he has lived a steady and quiet life in Toronto for many years where in 1992 his native country of Canada awarded him their highest civilian honor; the Companion to the Order of Canada.

If you don’t know much about Norman Jewison’s body of work, his record is one to be envied. He has garnered four Oscar nominations for himself as well as 46 nominations and 12 awards for his films. An entertaining raconteur on this occasion he is not.

If you have nothing to do on the evening of Thursday September the 13th and know nothing of this impressive filmmaker, watch “Private Screenings: Norman Jewison” at 8pm, followed by “Moonstruck” at 9pm. The rest of us might be better off renting one of Jewison’s films and tuning into TCM another night. Norman Jewison’s work speaks for itself.

Rating: D+