Murray Weissman, a well-regarded Hollywood publicist and awards consultant, died Monday of complications from pancreatic cancer at his Los Angeles home. He was 90.
He was a trailblazer in the field of awards campaigning and his clients included Frank Sinatra, the Television Academy, Miramax, Judy Garland, Danny Kaye, Red Skelton, Dick Van Dyke, the Smothers Brothers and such hit series as “The Twilight Zone,” “Gunsmoke,” “Route 66,” “Wyatt Earp” and “Hogan’s Heroes.”
He worked on Oscar campaigns for best picture winners “The Sting,” “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Dances with Wolves,” “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago” and “Crash.”
Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein has called Weissman the unsung hero of Miramax and the Weinstein Company Oscar campaigns: “Murray is one of the friendliest guys in town and somebody people actually take seriously. It’s been a pleasure to work with him all these years. He’s indefatigable, a guy who makes the Hollywood machinery run.”
Weissman was born in Brooklyn and moved to Los Angeles in 1936 with his family. He graduated from Fairfax High School and from the University of Southern California’s School of Journalism, then served as a Navy radio operator during World War II in 1944-45 aboard the attack transport USS Clearfield.
Weissman began his career as a publicity executive with the ABC and CBS television networks. In 1966, Weissman moved to Universal Pictures where he spent 10 years as chief of the motion picture publicity department — including working on Steven Spielberg’s 1975 “Jaws,” which opened in more than 400 theaters and was accompanied by a massive PR campaign that Weissman supervised.
In 1981, after stints at Lorimar Productions and Columbia Pictures (overseeing marketing on Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”), he formed his own marketing and PR company. Beginning in the 1990s, Weissman began focusing more on award campaigning for film and television with studios’ Academy Awards and Emmy teams.
In 2006, with son-in-law Rick Markovitz, Weissman formed Weissman/Markovitz Communications, which has assisted on Emmy campaigns for Amazon’s “Transparent,” FX’s “American Horror Story,” AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men.” Weissmann/Markovitz is repping “The Big Short” and “Anomalisa” during the current awards season along with the Art Directors Guild, the International Cinematographers Guild and the Make-up and Hair Stylists Guild.
“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.”
He was so popular among his peers and clients that, when his terminal diagnosis became known, a diverse group of organizations — Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, Gold Derby– AMC and FX Networks combined to throw him an early 90th birthday party on Nov. 17. Weissman described the event, which included testimonials from longtime friends and colleagues, as having given him the opportunity to attend his own memorial service.
Weissman had two children with his first wife, Graciela. After her death, he married Kay Friedman in 1995, and the two traveled extensively. With his first wife, he also played a role in introducing his daughter Julie to Rick Markovitz, who she later married.
Among the honors he received, Weissman was nominated for publicist of the year by the Publicists Guild of America. He is survived by his wife, children Benjamin and Julie and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Mulholland Tennis Club, 2555 Crest View Drive, in Los Angeles. Contributions may be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.