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Walter Mirisch, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Academy Award-winning producer of in the heat of the nightFriday died in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 101 years old. He was the longest-lived Oscar winner.
Mirisch – whose production credits extend to the 1940s and also include West side story, condo and the 1960 and 2016 editions of The Seven Wonders He also received a pair of honorary Oscars: Irving G. Thalberg Memorial in 1978 and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1983. He was also awarded the Producer Guild of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Pictures in 1996.
He served as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1973 to 1977.
Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang noted, “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is deeply saddened to hear of Walter’s passing.” Walter was a true visionary, both as a producer and as an industry leader. He was a powerful influence on the film community and the Academy, serving as our President and Governor of the Academy for many years. His passion for filmmaking and the Academy remained unwavering, and he remained a cherished friend and advisor. We send our love and support to his family through this Tough time.”
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Born November 8, 1921, in New York City, Mirisch did not serve in World War II due to a heart problem, instead moving to Burbank to work in an aircraft manufacturing plant. He started his film career as the general manager of Monogram Pictures from 1945. Soon after, he started producing low budget films including Pumbaa, the jungle boy (1949) and the first of 11 sequels, Pumbaa on Panther Island, later that year. He also produced two more Bomba versions, in 1950 and 1952.
Mirisch continued to make mostly B-movies through the 1950s before launching Mirisch, which signed a production deal with United Artists and began playing hits for the producer. Including Marilyn Monoe-Tony Curtis-Jack Lemmon romp Some like it hot (1959).
brought the end of the decade The Seven Wonders. A Hollywood remake of Akira Kurosawa Seven samuraiDirected by John Sturgess and starring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, among others. The film was popular in the United States but was a hit in Europe and was successful in Asia. It has become a Western classic.
In 1961, Mirisch west side story, Best Picture Winning Musical Based on the 1957 Tony Award-Winning Broadway Show. A Modern Look Romeo and Juliet, The film, directed by Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, won 10 Academy Awards including Best Director for Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.
Mirisch would claim his only competitive Oscar, which he received in the controversial 1967 in the heat of the night. Starring Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, a prominent Philadelphia homicide detective who is sent to rural Mississippi to investigate the murder of a wealthy industrialist. But Tibbs immediately runs afoul of the unsavory local sheriff (Rod Steiger)..
in the heat of the night It included a then-shocking scene of Tibbs responding to being slapped by a white man in the Deep South by slapping him on the back. Poitier’s powerful delivery of a line of dialogue in the film – “They call me sir stiffness! — was a defining moment for the film and a rallying cry for justice and respect within the culture as a whole. (The phrase would become the title of the film’s 1970 sequel, also starring Poitiers.)
Mirisch accepted the Best Picture Oscar as the sole producer of the pic.
Other Mirisch films in the next two decades included such classics as The Great Escape (1963), Pink panther (1963), fortune cookie (1966), The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming (1966), The Thomas Crown case (1968), Fiddler on the roof (1971) and Same time, next year (1978).
Mersich published his memoirs, I thought we were making moviesnot the date, in 2008.
Steven Spielberg also paid tribute to the late producer today. He said, “Walter was a giant figure in the film industry, and his films were groundbreaking classics that spanned every genre, while never failing to entertain audiences across the world.” “He’s achieved so much in life and in the industry – if you live to be 101 and be produced FlatIt’s been a good run, I’d say – and Walter has remained a gentleman and a staunch advocate for good films, while supporting multiple generations of dedicated filmmakers. Above all, he knew a good story when he found one, and he fought hard to get it on screen. He loved the Academy as much as anyone else in our history, serving four terms as president. I’ve cherished our lunches at World Rep over the years and he was as generous with his advice as he was with his friendship. I’m a better director and a better person at the same time because I’ve known Walter.”