Walter Mirisch

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Walter Mirisch
Walter Mortimer Mirisch

(1921-11-08) November 8, 1921 (age 97)
OccupationFilm producer
Years active1947–present
Parent(s)Josephine Urbach Mirisch
Max Mirisch
  • Academy Award for Best Picture as producer of In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  • Producer of the Year Award, Producers' Guild of America (1967)
  • National Association of Theater Owners (1972); and then ShowaRama (1975)
  • Walter Mortimer Mirisch (born November 8, 1921) is an American film producer. He is president and executive head of production of The Mirisch Corporation, an independent film production company, which he formed in 1957 with his brothers, Marvin and Harold. [1] He won the Academy Award for Best Picture as producer of In the Heat of the Night (1967). [2] [3]

    A film producer is a person who oversees film production. Either employed by a production company or working independently, producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting the script; coordinating writing, directing, and editing; and arranging financing.

    A production company, production house, production studio, or a production team provides the physical basis for works in the realms of the performing arts, new media art, film, television, radio, comics, interactive arts, video games, websites, and video. Production teams are a group of technical staff who produce the media. Generally the term refers to all individuals responsible for the technical aspects of creating of a particular product, regardless of where in the process their expertise is required, or how long they are involved in the project. For example, in a theatrical performance, the production team includes not only the running crew, but also the theatrical producer, designers and theatre direction.

    Marvin Eliot Mirisch (1918–2002) was an American film producer.


    Life and career

    Early years

    Born to a Jewish family [4] in New York, [5] one of two sons born to Josephine Frances (née Urbach) and Max Mirisch. [6] His father emigrated from Krakow in 1891 at the age of 17 arriving in New York City where he worked as a tailor. [5] His mother was the daughter of immigrants from Hungary and Poland. [5] His father was previously married to Flora Glasshut with whom he had two sons; she died of cancer at the age of 40. [5] 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. [7] He produced his first film, Fall Guy (1947) for Monogram Pictures. [7]

    American Jews Ethnic group

    American Jews, or Jewish Americans, are Americans who are Jews, whether by religion, ethnicity, or nationality. Today the Jewish community in the United States consists primarily of Ashkenazi Jews, who descend from diaspora Jewish populations of Central and Eastern Europe and comprise about 90-95% of the American Jewish population. Most American Ashkenazim are US-born, with a dwindling number of now-elderly earlier immigrants, as well as some more recent foreign-born immigrants.

    New York City Largest city in the United States

    The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

    Hungary Country in Central Europe

    Hungary is a country in Central Europe. Spanning 93,030 square kilometres (35,920 sq mi) in the Carpathian Basin, it borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Austria to the northwest, Romania to the east, Serbia to the south, Croatia to the southwest, and Slovenia to the west. With about 10 million inhabitants, Hungary is a medium-sized member state of the European Union. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken Uralic language in the world, and among the few non-Indo-European languages to be widely spoken in Europe. Hungary's capital and largest city is Budapest; other major urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs and Győr.


    At the age of 29, Mirisch became production head at Allied Artists Studio, initially only a division of Monogram, 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.

    <i>Invasion of the Body Snatchers</i> 1956 film directed by Don Siegel

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a 1956 American science fiction horror film produced by Walter Wanger, directed by Don Siegel, that stars Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. The black-and-white film, shot in Superscope, was partially done in a film noir style. Daniel Mainwaring adapted the screenplay from Jack Finney's 1954 science fiction novel The Body Snatchers. The film was released by Allied Artists Pictures as a double feature with the British science fiction film The Atomic Man

    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.

    The Mirisch Company was founded in 1957. [8] It produced 68 films for United Artists, including three that won the Academy Award for Best Picture – The Apartment (1960), West Side Story (1961) and In the Heat of the Night (1967), which also won four other Oscars. [6] [3] 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 Oscars, 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.

    <i>The Apartment</i> 1960 American comedy-drama film directed by Billy Wilder

    The Apartment is a 1960 American romantic comedy film produced and directed by Billy Wilder from a screenplay he co-wrote with I. A. L. Diamond, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, alongside Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, David Lewis, Willard Waterman, David White, Hope Holiday and Edie Adams.

    <i>West Side Story</i> (1961 film) 1961 film by Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins

    West Side Story is a 1961 American romantic musical drama film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris, and was photographed by Daniel L. Fapp in Super Panavision 70. Released on October 18, 1961, through United Artists, the film received high praise from critics and viewers, and became the second highest grossing film of the year in the United States. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won ten, including Best Picture, becoming the record holder for the most wins for a musical.

    <i>The Magnificent Seven</i> 1960 film directed by John Sturges

    The Magnificent Seven is a 1960 American Western film directed by John Sturges and starring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, James Coburn and Horst Buchholz. The film is an Old West–style remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai. Brynner, McQueen, Bronson, Vaughn, Dexter, Coburn and Buchholz portray the title characters, a group of seven gunfighters hired to protect a small village in Mexico from a group of marauding bandits. The film's musical score was composed by Elmer Bernstein. In 2013, the film was selected for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

    The Mirisch Corporation's list of pictures also includes 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.

    John Ford American film director

    John Ford was an American film director. He is renowned both for Westerns such as Stagecoach (1939), The Searchers (1956), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), as well as adaptations of classic 20th-century American novels such as the film The Grapes of Wrath (1940). His four Academy Awards for Best Director remain a record. One of the films for which he won the award, How Green Was My Valley, also won Best Picture.

    <i>The Horse Soldiers</i> 1959 film by John Ford

    The Horse Soldiers is a 1959 war film set during the American Civil War directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, William Holden and Constance Towers. The screenplay by John Lee Mahin and Martin Rackin was loosely based on Harold Sinclair's 1956 novel of the same name, a fictionalized version of Grierson's Raid in Mississippi.

    <i>The Childrens Hour</i> (film) 1961 drama movie directed by William Wyler

    The Children's Hour is a 1961 American drama film directed by William Wyler. The screenplay by John Michael Hayes is based on the 1934 play of the same title by Lillian Hellman. The film stars Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, and James Garner.

    For NBC television network, Mirisch was executive producer of Wichita Town with Joel McCrea (1959–1960), Peter Loves Mary (1960–1961), 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.

    NBC American television and radio network

    The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American English-language commercial terrestrial television network that is a flagship property of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The network is headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, with additional major offices near Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The network is one of the Big Three television networks. NBC is sometimes referred to as the "Peacock Network", in reference to its stylized peacock logo, introduced in 1956 to promote the company's innovations in early color broadcasting. It became the network's official emblem in 1979.

    USA Network American pay television channel

    USA Network is an American pay television channel that is owned by NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. It was originally launched in 1977 as Madison Square Garden Sports Network, one of the first national sports cable television channels, before being relaunched as USA Network in 1980. Once a minor player in basic-tier pay television, USA has steadily gained popularity due to its original programming; it is one of 4 major subscription-television networks that also broadcasts syndicated reruns of current and former "network television" series and theatrically-released feature films, as well as limited sports programming and WWE.

    American Broadcasting Company American broadcast television network

    The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is an American commercial broadcast television network that is a flagship property of Walt Disney Television, a subsidiary of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company. The network is headquartered in Burbank, California on Riverside Drive, directly across the street from Walt Disney Studios and adjacent to the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, But the network's second corporate headquarters and News headquarters remains in New York City, New York at their broadcast center on 77 West 66th Street in Lincoln Square in Upper West Side Manhattan.

    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." [5]

    Honors and awards

    Mirisch received the 1967 Academy Award for Best Picture for his production of In the Heat of the Night. [3]

    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's 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 .

    Personal life

    He was married to Patricia Kahan (1924-2005); they had three children, Anne Mirisch Sonnenberg, Andrew Mirisch and Lawrence Mirisch. [9] His son, Lawrence, is the founder of the Mirisch Agency. [4]

    Selected filmography

    1958 Fort Massacre producer
    Man of the West producer
    1959 The Gunfight at Dodge City producer
    The Man in the Net producer
    Cast a Long Shadow producer
    1960 The Magnificent Seven executive producer
    1961 By Love Possessed producer
    West Side Story executive producer (uncredited)
    The Children's Hour executive producer (uncredited)
    1962 Follow That Dream executive producer
    Kid Galahad executive producer (uncredited)
    Two for the Seesaw producer
    1963 The Great Escape executive producer (uncredited)
    Toys in the Attic producer
    The Pink Panther executive producer (uncredited)
    1964 633 Squadron executive producer (uncredited)
    A Shot in the Dark executive producer (uncredited)
    1966 The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming producer (uncredited)
    Hawaii producer
    1967 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying executive producer (uncredited)
    In the Heat of the Night producer
    Fitzwilly producer
    1968 The Party executive producer (uncredited)
    The Thomas Crown Affair executive producer (uncredited)
    1969 Sinful Davey executive producer
    Some Kind of a Nut producer
    1970 Halls of Anger executive producer
    The Landlord executive producer (uncredited)
    The Hawaiians producer
    They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! executive producer
    1971 The Organization producer
    Fiddler on the Roof executive producer (uncredited)
    1973 Scorpio producer
    1974 The Spikes Gang producer
    Mr. Majestyk producer
    1976 Midway producer
    1978 Gray Lady Down producer
    Same Time, Next Year producer
    1979 Dracula producer
    The Prisoner of Zenda producer
    1983 Romantic Comedy producer


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    1. King, Susan (June 17, 2008). "Career stories from a storied producer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
    2. Gaydos, Steven (February 3, 2015). "Walter Mirisch Looks Back on His First Producing Credit". Variety. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
    3. 1 2 3 "The 40th Academy Awards". Retrieved August 17, 2016.
    4. 1 2 Jewish Journal: "At Pepperdine, ruminations on Hollywood’s patrimony straight from its (Jewish) patriarchy" by Danielle Berrin October 6, 2013 | cached version at Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
    5. 1 2 3 4 5 Mirisch, Walter. "I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History". University of Wisconsin Press. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
    6. 1 2 Douglas Martin, Marvin Mirisch, 84, Hollywood Producer of 60's, The New York Times , November 20, 2002
    7. 1 2 Gaydos
    8. King
    9. "Patricia Kahan Mirisch". Los Angeles Times. May 3, 2005.
    Non-profit organization positions
    Preceded by
    Daniel Taradash
    President of Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
    Succeeded by
    Howard W. Koch