Walter Mirisch Dead: Former Academy President, Film Producer Was 101

Walter Mirisch, a former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and an Oscar-winning producer for “In the Heat of the Night,” died Friday in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 101.

Mirisch’s death was confirmed by a statement released by the Academy on Saturday afternoon.

“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is deeply saddened to hear of Walter’s passing,” Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang said in the statement. “Walter was a true visionary, both as a producer and as an industry leader. He had a powerful impact on the film community and the Academy, serving as our President and as an Academy governor for many years. His passion for filmmaking and the Academy never wavered, and he remained a dear friend and advisor. We send our love and support to his family during this difficult time.”

In the mid-20th century, Mirisch was one of the most lauded and powerful producers in Hollywood. In 1957, he founded The Mirisch Company with his brothers Harold and Marvin — the banner was tied to such classics as “Some Like It Hot” (1959), “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), “The Great Escape” (1963), “The Pink Panther” (1963) and “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968). The Mirisch Company was also a producer on three best picture winners — “The Apartment” (1960), “West Side Story” (1961) and “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), for which Mirisch received the Academy Award for best picture.

The Academy honored Mirisch twice more over the course of his towering career, which spanned more than six decades. In 1978, he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, commemorating his “consistently high quality of motion picture production.” In 1983, Mirisch was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his “humanitarian efforts [that] have brought credit to the industry.”

Mirisch served four terms as president of the Academy, from 1973 to 1977, as well as 15 years as an Academy governor. He was an instrumental figure in the institution forming a new headquarters in Beverly Hills.

Born Nov. 8, 1921 in New York, Mirisch worked at a bomber plane manufacturer during World War II before studying at the University of Madison-Wisconsin and Harvard Business School. He married his wife, Patricia, in 1945. The two remained wed until her death in 2005.

Mirisch also found leadership roles at the Producers Guild of America, the Los Angeles Music Center, the Motion Picture and Television Fund, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of Los Angeles and UCLA.

Mirisch is survived by his children, Anne, Andrew and Lawrence; his granddaughter and her husband, Megan and Craig Bloom; and his great-grandsons, Emery and Levi Bloom. The family requests donations be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund in memory of Mirisch.

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