Some Like It Hot and West Side Story Producer Walter Mirisch Dead at 101

Walter Mirisch The 57th Annual ACE Eddie Awards
Walter Mirisch The 57th Annual ACE Eddie Awards

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Hollywood film veteran Walter Mirisch has died at 101 years old.

The legendary producer of 1961's West Side Story and 1959's Some Like It Hot, which starred Marilyn Monroe, died of natural causes, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences confirmed to ABC News on Saturday.

Academy CEO Bill Kramer and president Janet Yang honored Mirisch's notable achievements in a joint statement:

"Walter was a true visionary, both as a producer and as an industry leader," they said of the former Academy governor and president. "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."

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The New York-born film pioneer died in Los Angeles, per Variety, where he started off his career working as an usher at movie theaters before moving on to low-budget Westerns and action films in the late 1940s.

The longest-living Oscar winner is a recipient of the Golden Globes' prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award, which he was awarded in 1977, and he received the Producers Guild of America's Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Pictures in 1996.

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Steven Spielberg shared a lengthy tribute to Mirisch with Deadline, noting what his character and mark on the industry meant to the writer, director and producer in his own achievements.

"Walter cut a gigantic figure in the film industry, and his movies were trailblazing classics that covered every genre, while never failing to entertain audiences around the world," he said.

"He achieved so much in life and in the industry — if you live to be 101 and produced The Apartment, I'd say it's been a good run — and Walter remained both a gentleman and an ardent advocate of good films, while supporting multiple generations of dedicated filmmakers," he added.

Julie Andrews, Walter Mirisch Julie Andrews poses with producer Walter Mirisch in Santa Monica
Julie Andrews, Walter Mirisch Julie Andrews poses with producer Walter Mirisch in Santa Monica


"Above all, he knew a good story when he found one, and fought tooth and nail to get it on the screen. He loved the Academy as much as anyone in our history, serving four terms as President. I cherished our lunches in the Universal Commissary over the years and he was as generous with his advice as he was with his friendship. I'm both a better director and a better person for having known Walter."

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Mirisch, a Harvard Business alum and University of Wisconsin, Madison graduate, also produced classics such as Pink Panther (1963), Hawaii with Julie Andrews (1966), Dracula (1979), and Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

The Allied Artists head formed The Mirisch Co. in 1957 with his older brothers, then signed a distribution deal with United Artists, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The company went on to produce 67 films and racked up a total of 28 Academy Awards.

Mirisch is survived by his daughter, Anne, and two sons, Lawrence and Andrew, from his wife of nearly 60 years, Patricia Kahan, who he lost in 2005. He is also survived by a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren.

Speaking to Variety in 2015 of his time in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Mirisch said it was mostly all work, in addition to time at home for the family man:

"I got married quickly and soon after that I became a father," he said. "And besides, I was making pictures like Bomba the Jungle Boy. I really wasn't making very much money, so we weren't going out to the Mocambo every night!"