I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History

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Univ of Wisconsin Press, Apr 10, 2008 - 476 pages
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This is a moving, star-filled account of one of Hollywood’s true golden ages as told by a man in the middle of it all. Walter Mirisch’s company has produced some of the most entertaining and enduring classics in film history, including West Side Story, Some Like It Hot, In the Heat of the Night, and The Magnificent Seven. His work has led to 87 Academy Award nominations and 28 Oscars. Richly illustrated with rare photographs from his personal collection, I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History reveals Mirisch’s own experience of Hollywood and tells the stories of the stars—emerging and established—who appeared in his films, including Natalie Wood, John Wayne, Peter Sellers, Sidney Poitier, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, and many others.
With hard-won insight and gentle humor, Mirisch recounts how he witnessed the end of the studio system, the development of independent production, and the rise and fall of some of Hollywood’s most gifted (and notorious) cultural icons. A producer with a passion for creative excellence, he offers insights into his innovative filmmaking process, revealing a rare ingenuity for placating the demands of auteur directors, weak-kneed studio executives, and troubled screen sirens.
From his early start as a movie theater usher to the presentation of such masterpieces as The Apartment, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Great Escape, Mirisch tells the inspiring life story of his climb to the highest echelon of the American film industry. This book assures Mirisch’s legacy—as Elmore Leonard puts it—as “one of the good guys.”

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I thought we were making movies, not history

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Mirisch has acquired the reputation of a hands-on, meticulous producer, having put together more than 100 films (including Some Like It Hot, West Side Story, and The Great Escape), 28 of which have ... Read full review

Contents

Prologue
3
1 My Family
6
2 The University of Wisconsin
15
3 Los Angeles and Monogram
22
4 Allied Artists
36
5 The 1950s
45
6 The Screen Producers Guild
61
7 Back at Allied Artists
67
20 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
172
21 633 Squadron a New Corporate Entity and Unrealized Projects
201
22 The Start of a Jinx and Cinerama
208
23 Hawaii
218
24 A New Relationship with Norman Jewison
235
25 In the Heat of the Night
246
26 A Western a Comedy a Drama and a Caper
259
27 Personal MattersFamilial and Corporate
271

8 Moulin Productions Inc
72
9 William Wyler and Friendly Persuasion and Billy Wilder and Love in the Afternoon
78
10 On Our Own
84
11 Billy Wilder and Some Like It Hot
100
12 John Ford and The Horse Soldiers
104
13 John Sturges and The Magnificent Seven
108
14 The 1960s
114
15 West Side Story
122
16 One Two Three and Other Projects
131
17 William Wyler Elvis Presley and John Sturges
140
18 A Big Hit and a Few Misses
154
19 Blake Edwards and The Pink Panther
162
28 Dark Days for the Film Industry
277
29 Billy Wilder and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and Avanti
295
30 Fiddler on the Roof
303
31 Goodbye to United Artists
314
32 Hello to Universal
324
33 The Return of Peter Sellers
348
34 The 1980s and 1990s
359
Epilogue
386
Filmography
389
Career Milestones and Awards
415
Index
419
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Walter Mirisch is the producer, in whole or in part, of more than one hundred films. Among his company’s honors are three Oscars for best picture—The Apartment (1960), West Side Story (1961), and In theHeat of the Night (1967). Mirisch has also received two honorary Academy Awards, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1977) and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (1983); and has been honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award (1977) presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures (1995) presented by the Producers Guild of America. He has been decorated by the Republic of France with its Order of Arts and Letters, has received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and is a recipient of the UCLA Medal, that university’s highest award. Mirisch served three terms as president of the Producers Guild of America and four terms as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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