I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History

Front Cover
University of Wisconsin Press, 2008 M04 10 - 504 pages

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

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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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