Walter Mirisch

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Walter Mirisch
Born Walter Mortimer Mirisch
(1921-11-08) November 8, 1921 (age 92)
New York City
Occupation Film producer

Walter Mortimer Mirisch (born November 8, 1921) is an American film producer. In his long and successful motion picture career, Walter Mirisch has produced some of the industry's finest and most memorable films. He is President and Executive Head of Production of The Mirisch Corporation, an independent filmmaking organization, which he formed in 1957 with his brothers, Marvin and Harold. He won the 1967 Academy Award for Best Picture as producer of In the Heat of the Night.

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

A native of New York, Mirisch graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School and entered the movie business as a summer vacation usher in Jersey City's State Theater, soon moving up to higher positions at other theaters. In 1942, he received a BA degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the following year graduated from Harvard's Graduate School of Business Administration. In 1947, he produced his first film, Fall Guy, for Monogram Pictures Corporation.

Career[edit]

At the age of 29, Mirisch became production head at Allied Artists Studio with some 30 films to oversee. During his tenure, he found time to personally produce Flat Top, Wichita, which received a Golden Globe from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as Best Outdoor Drama of 1955, The First Texan, and An Annapolis Story. He supervised the productions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Friendly Persuasion, and Love in the Afternoon, among many others.

Mirisch heads that category of creative producers who have learned their craft thoroughly from the very inception of a project through all phases of its production process. Known in the industry as a perfectionist, he supervises every detail of his films from the earliest stages to the final release.

Among the most noteworthy Mirisch projects that Walter personally produced are: Man Of The West; The Magnificent Seven; Two for the See-Saw; Toys in the Attic; the film version of James A. Michener's monumental novel, Hawaii, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and its sequel, The Hawaiians; Midway, the saga of America's greatest naval victory; the tender and moving Same Time, Next Year; and Romantic Comedy. In 1968, Walter received an Academy Award for In The Heat of the Night, which won the Best Picture Award, as well as four other Academy Awards. Additionally, it was named Best Picture of the Year by both the New York and Cleveland Film Critics Circle, Best American Picture (co-winner) by the British Film and Television Guild, Best Dramatic Picture of the Year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and it won the United Nations Special Award of the British Film Association.

The Mirisch Corporation's impressive list of pictures include two more Best Picture Oscar winners: Billy Wilder's The Apartment in 1960, and Robert Wise's West Side Story in 1961. Both films also captured additional Academy Awards and numerous other honors and awards. Other outstanding Mirisch films include John Ford's The Horse Soldiers; William Wyler's The Children's Hour; John Sturges' The Great Escape; Blake Edwards' The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark, and The Party, all starring Peter Sellers; Wilder's Some Like It Hot, One, Two, Three, Irma La Douce, and The Fortune Cookie; and Norman Jewison's The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture; The Thomas Crown Affair; and the motion picture versions of the Broadway plays Same Time, Next Year and Romantic Comedy and the musical Fiddler on the Roof, also an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture.

For NBC television network, Mirisch was executive producer of Desperado; Return of Desperado; Desperado: Avalanche At Devil’s Ridge; Desperado: Legacy; Desperado: Sole Survivor; and in 1993, Troubleshooters: Trapped Beneath The Earth. Mirisch was executive producer of Lily in Winter for the USA Network in 1994, A Class for Life for ABC in 1995, as well as The Magnificent Seven, a weekly series for CBS in 1997.

Ron Howard has said of Mirisch, "From Bomba, the Jungle Boy to Some Like It Hot and In the Heat of the Night . . . Walter Mirisch produced many of the films which dazzled and inspired me (and I'm not kidding about Bomba. I loved those movies as a kid.) When I later acted in one of his (lesser) productions, The Spikes Gang, I learned that a prolific and brilliant producer could also be a terrific guy and a wonderful teacher."[1]

Honors and awards[edit]

Mirisch received the 1967 Academy Award for Best Picture for his production of In the Heat of the Night.

Throughout the years, he has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including The Producer of the Year Award: first, from the Producers' Guild of America (1967); later, the National Association of Theater Owners (1972); and then ShowaRama (1975).

In addition, he received the Cecil B. DeMille Award of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field" (1976), the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his "consistently high quality of motion picture production (1978), and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which is given to an individual whose "humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry" (1983).

Mirisch has served three terms as president of the Producers Guild of America. He served four terms as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is a former president and Governor of the Performing Arts Council of the Los Angeles Music Center, as well as a trustee of the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Mirisch is also an Emeritus member of the board of directors of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of Los Angeles, and the board of directors of the UCLA Foundation.

He was decorated by the Republic of France with its Order of Arts and Letters in 1961.

In May 1989, he received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In June 1989, he was the recipient of the UCLA Medal, the university's highest award.

In 2004, he was honored with a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art entitled "The Magnificent Mirisches". The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York honored him in 2006 with a retrospective of twelve films.

On February 2, 2008, Mirisch presented the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year award at the 19th Annual Producers Guild of America Awards. The top honor (the equivalent of the Academy Award for Best Picture) went to Scott Rudin, Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men.

Selected filmography[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Mirisch, Walter (2008). I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-22640-9. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mirisch, Walter. "I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History". UW Press. Retrieved October 25, 2009. 

Jeanine Basinger (2008). "Walter Mirisch". filmreference. Retrieved January 8, 2009. 

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Daniel Taradash
President of Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
1973–1977
Succeeded by
Howard W. Koch