For more than sixty years, legendary Hollywood producer Walter Mirisch (American, b. 1921) has created films that are at once entertaining, profound, and profitable. His extraordinary contribution to the industry has led to 84 Academy Award nominations and 28 Oscars, including three for Best Picture—for The Apartment (1960), West Side Story (1961), and In the Heat of the Night (1967)—as well as to the presidency of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Academy’s two highest honors, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (bestowed in 1978 and 1983 respectively).
Mirisch first made his mark as head of production at Monogram Studios, later known as Allied Artists, in the late 1940s and mid-1950s. In 1957, he and his brothers Harold and Marvin formed an independent company, the Mirisch Corporation. Offering unparalleled creative autonomy and generous profit sharing, the Mirisches nurtured the careers of directors such as Hal Ashby, Blake Edwards, Norman Jewison, John Sturges, Billy Wilder, and Robert Wise, and actors such as Charles Bronson, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Joel McCrea, Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier, and Peter Sellers.
For the next quarter century, the Mirisch Corporation produced a wide-ranging array of films—more than 65 for United Artists and five for Universal Pictures: Westerns, wartime melodramas, and thrillers that break with genre conventions, such as Anthony Mann’s Man of the West (1958) and John Sturges’s The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape; sophisticated comedies with sparkling wit and antic humor, including Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot and The Apartment, and Blake Edwards’s The Pink Panther and The Party (1968); such lavish musicals as Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s West Side Story that have since entered the canon; and provocative examinations of race and class in America, most notably Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night and Hal Ashby’s The Landlord (1970). The exhibition, which features some of Hollywood’s most cherished and enduring films, opens on December 1 with a screening of In the Heat of the Night introduced by Walter Mirisch.
Organized by Joshua Siegel, Assistant Curator, Department of Film.