‘In the Heat of the Night’ producer was 101 – The Hollywood Reporter

Walter Mirisch, the legendary independent-minded producer who is the only person to have received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Irving G. Thalberg Award and the Oscar for Best Picture, is deceased. He was 101 years old.

The affable Mirisch, who served four terms as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1973 to 1977, died Friday in Los Angeles of natural causes, AMPAS reported.

“Walter was a true visionary, both as a producer and as an industry leader,” Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang said in a statement. joint statement. “He had a powerful impact on the film community and the Academy, serving as President and Governor of the Academy for many years. His passion for film and the Academy never wavered, and he remained a very dear friend and adviser.

Survivors include his son Larry Mirisch, the owner of The Mirisch Agency, the low-end store he founded in 1992.

Mirisch got his Oscar statuette in 1968 for producing the edgy thriller In the heat of the Night (1967). His production team, The Mirisch Co., produced two other classics that won the Academy’s ultimate prize: Billy Wilder’s poignant comedy. The apartment (1960) and musical drama by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins West Side Story (1961).

In the heat of the Night star Sidney Poitier, in the preface to Mirisch’s 2008 book I thought we were making movies, not historycalled him a “legendary producer, visionary filmmaker, courageous seeker of truth, especially in difficult times”.

And the famous novelist Elmore Leonard dedicated Get Shortyhis scathing satire of the motion picture industry from 1990, to the producer: “To Walter Mirisch, one of the good guys.”

In August 1957, Mirisch, then a manager at Allied Artists, founded The Mirisch Co. with his older brothers Marvin and Harold, and they signed a distribution deal with United Artists. The company flourished, producing a wide range of 67 films over the next two decades while garnering 28 Oscars.

Among these features: Some like it hot (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The great Escape (1963), The pink Panther (1963), The fortune cookie (1966), The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming (1966), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), fiddler on the roof (1971) and Same time, next year (1978).

In addition to In the heat of the NightMirisch himself produced films such as The net man (1959), Two for the swing (1962), Toys in the attic (1963), seven times Oscar nominee Hawaii (1966), Mr. Your Majesty (1974), Half-way (1976) and, earlier, a series of Bomba the Jungle Boy movies in the 1950s (Filmmaker Ron Howard said he loved these movies when he was a kid.)

Throughout his career, Mirisch has worked with a variety of top directors, including William Wyler, John Ford, John Sturgis, Blake Edwards and Norman Jewison.

Respected for taking smart risks and tackling social issues, Mirisch and his In the heat of the Night his colleagues were honored in 1998 by the Academy with a specially restored print to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary.

The drama, directed by Jewison from the screenplay by Stirling Silliphant and starring Rod Steiger as a Mississippi lawyer and Poitier as a black detective investigating a murder in a racist southern town, won five Oscars in all .

“Even today he has a lot to tell us,” Mirisch said at the 1998 ceremony. “Instead of mounting a soapbox and giving speeches, he makes his point by dramatizing how a A redneck sheriff from the south and a black detective from the east are finally able to see each other not as stereotypes but as individuals.”

Mirisch also served three terms as president of the Producers Guild of America and received his David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. He received the Thalberg Honor in 1978 and the Hersholt Award in 1983.

In 1976, he received the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, that organization’s highest film honor.

The Mirisch Co. entered television in 1959 with the Western series City of Wichitastarring Joel McCrea, and went on to produce shows such as The Rat Patrol and Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson Hey, owner. UA acquired The Mirisch Co. in March 1963, and the brothers continued to produce films and television shows for the studio.

Mirisch spearheaded many initiatives to ensure a prosperous future for the Academy, including establishing a new headquarters for the organization in Beverly Hills in 1975.

In a 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter on his last day as Academy President, the late Tom Sherak said Mirisch had been invaluable in helping him make the decision to renegotiate AMPAS’ contract with the Kodak Theater (now known as the Dolby Theatre), the home of the Oscars.

“I was worried about where we (could) go and who would want us,” Sherak said. THR. “And I’ll never forget, it was Walter Mirisch…who looked at me and said, ‘Tom, listen to me. It’s the Oscars. You will find a place to go. Renegotiate, Tom. Trust me.’ And that’s where I went to exercise our right to renegotiate.

“Then we immediately started receiving offers. We stayed there because that’s where we belong. So it was Walter Mirisch who gave me the green light in his own way to say go ahead; someone will want us, don’t worry. And he was right.

Born in New York on November 8, 1921, Mirisch earned a BA in history in 1942 from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, winning a graduate scholarship in history. Despite his penchant for scholarship, he loved movies, hoping to enter the entertainment industry, but without film school, he chose to go to Harvard to study business.

After graduating with a master’s degree, Mirisch landed her first showbiz job with a theater chain, learning about movies on the show side. He quickly migrated to Monogram Studios in 1945, and his first credit as a producer was on the crime drama Scapegoat (1947).

In 1951, he was executive producer in charge of Monogram and its subsidiary Allied Artists.

Mirisch has also held leadership positions at the Los Angeles Music Center, Motion Picture & Television Fund, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and UCLA.

Survivors include his children, Anne, Andrew and Lawrence; her granddaughter, Megan, and her husband, Craig; and his great-grandsons, Emery and Levi. His wife, Patricia, died in 2005.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the MPTF.

Steven Spielberg said in a statement:

“Walter made a gigantic figure in the film industry, and his films were pioneering classics that spanned all genres while never failing to entertain audiences around the world. He’s accomplished so much in life and in the industry – if you live to be 101 and produce The apartmentI’d say it’s been a good run – and Walter has remained both a gentleman and a strong advocate for good movies while supporting several generations of dedicated filmmakers.

“Above all, he knew a good story when he found one and fought tooth and nail to bring it to the screen. He loved the Academy as much as anyone in our history, serving four terms as President. J “Have cherished our lunches at the Universal Commissioner over the years, and he was as generous with his advice as he was with his friendship. I’m both a better director and a better person to have known Walter.”

Duane Byrge contributed to this report.

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