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Walter Milish Obituary | Film

Walter Milish, who died at the age of 101, was one of the few film producers of the post-Hollywood studio era who possessed the intuition and know-how of the 1930s and ’40s moguls, with the trustworthy audacity and confidence. He made the film the artist himself.

As a result, a series of films were produced by both mass audiences and critics in the decade following the founding of the Milish Corporation (variably known as the Milish Production Company and Milish Films), founded by Walter in 1957. got the approval ofBrother Marvin and his half-brother Harold.

The company quickly earned a reputation for its meticulous budgeting, quality of production, and the complete creative autonomy afforded to its filmmakers. Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot, The Apartment), John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape), John Ford (The Horse Soldiers), Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther), Norman Jewison (The Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair), Robert Wise (West Side Story). Films under the Mirisch Corporation banner have earned him 87 Academy Award nominations and a total of 28 Oscars.

Walter Milish in Hollywood, 2009. Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Walter’s father, Max, was born in Krakow, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and immigrated to the United States in 1891 as a teenager.he eventually became a tailor new york, where his children were born. Walter and Marvin were sons from a second marriage to Josephine Urbach. The Great Depression hit the family, but Walter earned a degree in history from the University of Wisconsin, and he studied at his school of business at Harvard.

He began his ties to the film business at the age of 17 as an administrative trainee at one of the chains of Skouras movie theaters. This meant he acted as an usher most of the time, but gave him the opportunity to watch movies. Among these are Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940), both exemplars of the quality he would later aim for. .

After World War II, Harold, who was RKO Theater’s chief film buyer, put his brother in touch with Steve Broidy, general manager of Monogram Pictures and Poverty Row Studios. As a producer, Milish did his best to raise the bar for Monogram (later renamed Allied Artists), but he only took his time.

Nevertheless, during his 12 years in the minor leagues, he learned many aspects of filmmaking at an effective B-picture level. Among the dozens of monogrammed photos under his watch were 12 lucrative quickie movies starring him. Johnny Sheffieldformerly starting with Tarzan Boy, Bomba, Jungle Boy (1949) and ending with Lord of the Jungle (1955).

At a much higher level, there are six Westerns produced by Mirisch for Allied Artists, starring Joel McCrea. These included Wichita (1955) and First Texan (1956), in which McCrea played Wyatt Earp and Sam Houston respectively. Everything changed when Mirisch Corporation began releasing through United Artists.

Jack Lemmon (left) and Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot), 1959, Milish Corporation's breakthrough hit.
Jack Lemmon (left) and Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot), 1959, Milish Corporation’s breakthrough hit. Photo: Cinetext/United Artists/Allstar

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. UA’s relative financial stability has given Mirisch greater production flexibility as head of the production department. The company and producer made decisions together about story, cast, director and budget, after which the producer was given complete freedom to make the picture. Occasionally appointed its own sales representative to assist with distribution.

“To me, good taste means good taste in writing, directing, acting, scoring, editing, and all the other stages of the film business,” says Milish. I understood the role of a producer.

Desiring to stand out as a quality independent filmmaker, the Milish Corporation launched Fort Massacre (1958) as its first production. Shot on CinemaScope and De Luxe Color, and shot at the best that McCrea can rely on, it’s a solid, rugged western, but it didn’t quite live up to their expectations. The breakthrough came with One of UA’s biggest hits, Some Like It Hot (1959). They hit the jackpot again with the epic $7 million-grossing The Magnificent Seven (1960) and the $11 million-growing West Side Story (1961).

In 1963, a share transfer gave UA ownership of Milish, but little changed. Major studios were still plagued by high overheads and salaries, but Milish was in a position to offer high commissions and almost complete control to directors such as Jewison in Canada. Russians are coming! (1966), The Heat of the Night (1967), for which Milish won an Oscar for best picture, and the Thomas Crown Affair (1968). For Ford’s The Horse Soldiers (1959), the Mirisch Company paid both William Holden and John Wayne his $750,000 plus his 20% of the profits.

Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway's The Thomas Crown Case (1968) was one of three consecutive hits Norman Jewison gave Milish.
Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway’s The Thomas Crown Case (1968) was one of three consecutive hits Norman Jewison gave Milish. Photo: Cinetext/United Artists/Allstar

In his 2008 memoir, Milish, who thought he was making movies instead of history, told a few revealing anecdotes about some of the directors and stars he worked with. Among the few filmmakers who fell out, John Huston.

First of all, Milish rejected the director’s wish to use his daughter Angelica as the lead opposite John Hurt in the film Sinful Davey (1969). The film was then re-edited against Houston’s will after initial previews were disastrous.In spite of, or because of, the Mirisch-directed re-edit, Sinful Davey is the company and Houston’s biggest failure. remains one of his. Milish also has problems with Peter in his Panther movie Pink with his Sellers and Hawaii (1966), which failed to recoup the cost of $15 million despite his seven Oscar nominations. I remembered the production issues on .

In the ’70s, Milish Touch tended to be less stable, but had hits like Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Battle for Midway (1976) and Dracula (1979). In the 1980s, the company expanded almost exclusively into television. Milish served as executive producer for his television series, which includes a spin-off from his The Magnificent Seven (1998-2000), one of his biggest successes of his past, and in 2016 Served as Executive Producer for the remake of the film.

In 1977, a four-term president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a three-term president of the Producers Guild of America, Milish received the Academy’s Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award and the 1982 Jan Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

He is survived by a daughter, Anne, and two sons, Andrew and Lawrence, and a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren from his marriage to Patricia Kahan, whom he married in 1947 and died in 2005.

Walter Mortimer Milish, film producer, born November 8, 1921. Died February 24, 2023 Walter Milish Obituary | Film

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