West News Wire: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Saturday that Walter Mirisch, the shrewd and Oscar-winning film producer who oversaw such classics as “Some Like It Hot,” “West Side Story,” and “In the Heat of the Night,” had passed away from natural causes. He was 101.
According to a statement from the academy’s CEO Bill Kramer and president Janet Yang, Mirisch passed away on Friday in Los Angeles.
They noted that he had held the positions of academy president and academy governor for a long time and remarked, “Walter was a great visionary, both as a producer and as an industry leader.” “He remained a great friend and advisor, and his love for movies and the Academy never wavered. We offer his family our love and support during this time.
Mirisch received the best picture Academy Award for 1967’s “In the Heat of the Night,” and the company run by him and his brothers also produced the best-picture Oscar winners “The Apartment” and “West Side Story.”
Born eight years before the first Academy Awards ceremony, he served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1973 to 1977 and received two honorary Oscars, in 1978 and 1983, for his body of work and his humanitarian efforts.
As a producer, Mirisch aggressively recruited top filmmakers such as Billy Wilder and Norman Jewison, then gave them freedom to craft the movies as they saw fit.
“We offered these filmmakers what they needed,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1983. “Billy could call me up and say, `I’d next like to do a picture about so-and-so’ and that’s all we’d need to know. We became, in effect, partners with our directors.”
His company’s regular stable of directors included not only Wilder and Jewison, but Blake Edwards and John Sturges. The company also produced movies by John Ford, John Huston, William Wyler, George Roy Hill and Hal Ashby.
Mirisch entered the movie business in his teens, advancing from usher to management jobs with a theater chain before going on to production work on low-budget action flicks and Westerns in the late 1940s.
The company he founded in 1957 with his brother Marvin and half brother Harold was one of the most successful independent production outfits to arise from the old studio system as television cut into movie attendance.