L’chaim to classic movies

The Okanagan Screen Arts (OSA)Association is about to show two classic Hollywood movies by Canadian director Norman Jewison.

  • May. 18, 2016 5:00 p.m.

The Okanagan Screen Arts (OSA)Association is about to show two classic Hollywood movies by Canadian director Norman Jewison.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and Moonstruck (1987) screen at the Vernon Towne Cinema Monday, May 23 and June 6, respectively.

Like many Canadian directors and actors before him, Jewison left Toronto for Hollywood, where his successes included The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and In the Heat of the Night (1967). While successful with those early films, it may have been a fortunate accident to be asked by Hollywood to direct the screen adaptation of Fiddler, thanks to the common mistake of believing Jewison to be Jewish because of his surname.

The iconic American musical was adapted after its Broadway success seven years earlier and was nominated for several Academy awards, including Best Picture. It won three, including Best Actor for Chaim Topol as Tevye.

The decision to cast Topol instead of Zero Mostel, who made the role famous on Broadway, was controversial with the producers. Jewison argued that although Mostel’s larger-than-life personality worked fine on stage, he’d come across much too strongly in front of a camera. Likewise, with the location footage in Yugoslavia, the village needed a far more natural look than was acceptable on stage.

The story follows Tevye and his Jewish family in 1905, living in the small town of Anatevka in the Russian Empire. Despite working hard, Tevye is far from wealthy. He and his sharp-tongued wife have five daughters and according to tradition, they have to rely on the village matchmaker to find them husbands.

Tevye speaks not only of the difficulties of being poor but also of the Jewish community’s constant fear of harassment from neighbours.

Virtuoso violinist Isaac Stern recorded the fiddle solos for Tevye, and Jewison played a rabbi during Tevye’s dream sequence.

Sixteen years later, Jewison directed one of the most popular romantic films ever made. Despite Cher’s extreme reluctance to take the lead role in Moonstruck, she did and ended up winning Best Actress at the Oscars. Jewison earned his third nomination for Best Director.

Films screen at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. and will be preceded by a shorter film introduced by Jim Elderton. The OSA is looking to form a board of directors to become a registered non-profit society. Those interested are asked to make themselves known on the film nights.