Death at 101 of Walter Mirisch, producer of “Some like it hot” and “West Side Story”

His career spanned six decades with cult films like Some like it hot And West Side Story, notably. American producer Walter Mirisch died at the age of 101, the Academy of Oscars announced on Sunday February 26.

The Oscar winner, who was also a former president of the Academy, died Friday February 24 in Los Angeles of natural death, the organization said in a press release. Its CEO, Bill Kramer, and President, Janet Yang, greeted a “true visionary”.

“He had a powerful impact on the film community and the Academy (…) His passion for film and the Academy never wavered, and he remained a dear friend and adviser”they added.

Walter Mirisch, born in New York on November 8, 1921, has been honored three times by the Academy. He received the Oscar for Best Picture for In the heat of the Night (1967), the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for the “high and consistent quality of its film production” as well as the Jean-Hersholt Humanitarian Prize. In France, he was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1961.

A prolific producer

For the Academy, Walter Mirisch was “one of the most prolific producers in Hollywood history”. His production company, Mirisch Company, created in 1957 with his brothers Harold and Marvin, started with a few westerns before being at the origin of several famous films such as Some like it hot (1959) in which Marilyn Monroe plays, The Magnificent Seven (1960), West Side Story (1961), The great Escape (1963), The pink Panther (1963) or even The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

As a producer, Walter Mirisch often left the directors they chose, such as Billy Wilder and Norman Jewison, free to direct the films as they saw fit.

“We gave these filmmakers what they needed, he declared to Los Angeles Times in 1983. Billy could call me up and say, ‘I’d like to do a movie about so and so,’ and that’s all we needed to know. We have become, in effect, partners of our producers. »

Recognized by Sidney Poitier

Walter Mirisch is one of a handful of filmmakers whom Sidney Poitier recognized in his speech at the 2002 Academy Awards, when he received an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement.

“These filmmakers persevered, calling on the best in each of us through their art”said the American actor and director who starred in In the heat of the Night of M. Mirisch and in the sequel, Call me Mr. Tibbs.

Walter Mirisch (right) with actor Charlton Heston at the Golden Globes in Los Angeles in January 1977.

Walter Mirisch continued to produce films for the cinema until the 1980s. Although the commercial success of his films declined, he still gleaned a few Oscar nominations, and a Golden Globe for Same time, next year (1978). Among the other films of the end of his career, there was The Battle of Midway (1976), Save the Neptune (1978) with Charlton Heston, and the 1979 version of Dracula. Walter Mirisch also served as an executive producer on a few television projects in the 1990s.

The World with AFP

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