Walter Mirisch, ‘In the Heat of the Night’ Producer and Former Academy President, Dies at 101

Oscar-winning producer also worked on “Fiddler on the Roof” and the “Pink Panther” films

Photo Courtesy of AMPAS

Walter Mirisch, producer of the 1967 Best Picture Oscar winner “In the Heat of the Night” and former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, died on Friday evening at the age of 101.

“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is deeply saddened to hear of Walter’s passing,” Academy CEO Bill Kramer and President Janet Yang said in a 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,” the statement continued. “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.”

Born in New York, Mirisch co-founded the prolific film production outlet The Mirisch Company with his brothers Harold and Marvin. While he received the Best Picture Oscar as a credited producer on the classic Sidney Poitier drama “In the Heat of the Night,” he was also an uncredited executive producer on dozens of other hit films including “West Side Story,” “Some Like It Hot,” “The Great Escape” and “The Pink Panther.”

After winning Best Picture, Mirisch served as president of AMPAS from 1973-77 and, as part of its board of governors for 15 years, spearheaded multiple initiatives including the establishment of a new headquarters for the Academy in Beverly Hills. He also served in 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.

For his work in the Academy and in philanthropy, Mirisch was awarded the Academy’s Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his “consistently high quality of motion picture production,” and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which is given to an individual whose “humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”

He is survived by his children, Anne, Andrew and Lawrence Mirisch, his granddaughter and her husband, Megan and Craig Bloom, and his great-grandsons Emery and Levi Bloom. His wife, Patricia, passed away in 2005. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Motion Picture and Television Fund in his memory.