Dedicated to the memory of Murray Weissman
Founder and Chairman Weissman/Markovitz Communications (December 23, 1925 – December 28, 2015)
Murray Weissman -- legendary Hollywood publicist and awards specialist who worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg and who helped clients win seven Best Picture Oscars®, countless Emmys® and Golden Globes® -- died December 28 of pancreatic cancer in his Studio City apartment with his family by his side. He was 90.
The Early Years
In a nearly 70-year career, Weissman began as a publicity executive with the ABC and CBS television networks where he worked on the shows of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Danny Kaye, Red Skelton, Dick Van Dyke, the Smothers Brothers, among many, and such hit series as Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, Route 66, Wyatt Earp, and Hogan’s Heroes.
In 1966, Weissman moved to Universal Pictures where he spent 10 years as chief of the motion picture publicity department. In 1973 Universal released Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” which marked a turning point in how Hollywood movies were marketed and distributed. Opening in more than 400 theatres, a record at the time, the film was accompanied by a massive PR campaign, all of which Weissman supervised. “Jaws” went on to break every box-office record at the time.
In 1981, after stints at Lorimar Productions (now part of Warner Bros. Television) and Columbia Pictures (overseeing marketing on Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”), he formed his own marketing and PR company which over the years represented numerous studios, networks production companies as well as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, one of his first major long-time clients.
Beginning in the 1990s, Weissman began focusing more on award campaigning for film and television. With studios’ Academy Awards teams, he worked on 38 Best Picture nominees, helping capture the top Oscar for seven: “The Sting,” “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Dances With Wolves,” “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago” and “Crash.”
The Later Years
In 2006, with son-in-law Rick Markovitz, Weissman formed Weissman/Markovitz Communications (WMC). Weissman, who years earlier had introduced his daughter Julie to her future husband, always called the marriage his “best promotion.” WMC currently represents the FX and Food Networks, Amazon Studios and BET – who in 2015 collectively received more than 50 Emmy nominations. Topping the list of current and past Emmy winners WMC assisted on are Amazon’s “Transparent” (5), FX’s “American Horror Story” (13), AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” (16) and AMC’s “Mad Men” (16), including 4 for Outstanding Drama Series. Other key clients include Paramount Pictures (this year as part of their awards team for “The Big Short” and “Anomalisa”), the Art Directors Guild for 15 years, the International Cinematographers Guild, and the Make-up and Hair Stylists Guild, among others. Earlier in the 1980s Weissman had separate and brief partnerships with Milton Moritz and Tony Angellotti.
“Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner said, “Murray Weissman was an essential part of ‘Mad Men.’ His understanding of creative people, his patience, his cleverness with gatekeepers, and his unflagging taste served as an example to me and to generations of artists. Murray’s belief in the show, in the network’s commitment, and in me personally - expressed by clever, persistent, and always polite persuasion - enabled our success. Murray Weissman was a Zen warrior, proving how belief in yourself and your work can overcome all obstacles. I will miss him and I feel so lucky to have been part of his personal and professional life.”
Murray Weissman was born on December 23, 1925 in Brooklyn. Moving to Los Angeles in 1936 with his family, he graduated from Fairfax High School, and then from the University of Southern California’s School of Journalism. He served as a Navy radio operator during World War II in 1944-45 aboard the attack transport USS Clearfield. Weissman is survived by his second wife, actress/dancer Kay Friedman Weissman (whom he married after the death in 1995 of his first wife Gracia Lee Weissman); daughter Julie Weissman Markovitz; son-in-law Rick Markovitz; son Benjamin Weissman; daughter-in-law Amy Gerstler; and three grandchildren, Ethan, Jonathan and Elizabeth Markovitz.
An active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Television Academy, Weissman’s popularity among peers and clients led to a GoldDerby.com tribute and an ICG Publicists Directory dedication in 2011 as well as a five-time nominee for the group’s prestigious Les Mason Award. Last month the Art Directors Guild dedicated their boardroom in his honor with a naming ceremony on November 18. When Weissman’s cancer diagnosis became known, FX Networks, AMC, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, and GoldDerby feted him with a well-attended early 90th birthday party last month. Weissman described the event which included testimonials from longtime friends and colleagues as enabling him to have the unique opportunity of attending his own memorial service.
Like many of his predecessors, Weissman stayed active and productive to the end, continuing to participate in WMC’s 2015 awards campaigns. The Los Angeles Times’ Robert Welkos wrote (“Murray Weissman, Oscar’s best pal,” November 12, 2010), “[Weissman] came up in an era that produced giants of entertainment publicity, such names as Henry Rogers, Warren Cowan, Dale Olson and Lee Solters. They are all gone now, leaving Weissman as the reigning godfather of Oscar consultants, a role he embraces after having mentored many of today’s top consultants.”
A memorial service will be held this Saturday, January 2, at 11 a.m. at the Mulholland Tennis Club, 2555 Crest View Drive, Los Angeles, Calif. 90046. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, www.mptf.com/donate