Walter Matthau

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Walter Matthau
Walter Matthau - 1952.jpg
Matthau in 1952
BornWalter John Matthow
(1920-10-01)October 1, 1920
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 1, 2000(2000-07-01) (aged 79)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart Attack
Resting place
Westwood Village Memorial Park
ResidenceSanta Monica, California
NationalityAmerican
EducationSeward Park High School
Alma materThe New School
OccupationActor
Years active1948–2000
Notable work(s)The Odd Couple,
The Bad News Bears,
The Fortune Cookie,
I.Q.,
Grumpy Old Men
Home townManhattan, New York City, NY
Height6' 2" (1.89 m)
ReligionJewish
Spouse(s)Grace Geraldine Johnson (1948–58; divorced; 2 children)
Carol Marcus (1959–2000; his death; 1 child)
ChildrenCharles Matthau,
Jenny Matthau,
David Matthau
ParentsMilton Matthau,
Rose (née Berolsky) Matthau
AwardsAcademy Award, BAFTA Award, Tony Award, Golden Globe Award
Website
Walter Matthau
 
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Walter Matthau
Walter Matthau - 1952.jpg
Matthau in 1952
BornWalter John Matthow
(1920-10-01)October 1, 1920
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 1, 2000(2000-07-01) (aged 79)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart Attack
Resting place
Westwood Village Memorial Park
ResidenceSanta Monica, California
NationalityAmerican
EducationSeward Park High School
Alma materThe New School
OccupationActor
Years active1948–2000
Notable work(s)The Odd Couple,
The Bad News Bears,
The Fortune Cookie,
I.Q.,
Grumpy Old Men
Home townManhattan, New York City, NY
Height6' 2" (1.89 m)
ReligionJewish
Spouse(s)Grace Geraldine Johnson (1948–58; divorced; 2 children)
Carol Marcus (1959–2000; his death; 1 child)
ChildrenCharles Matthau,
Jenny Matthau,
David Matthau
ParentsMilton Matthau,
Rose (née Berolsky) Matthau
AwardsAcademy Award, BAFTA Award, Tony Award, Golden Globe Award
Website
Walter Matthau

Walter Matthau (/ˈmæθ/;[1] October 1, 1920 – July 1, 2000) was an American actor best known for his role as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple and his frequent collaborations with Odd Couple star Jack Lemmon, as well as his role as Coach Buttermaker in the 1976 comedy The Bad News Bears. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the 1966 Billy Wilder film The Fortune Cookie. Besides the Oscar he was the winner of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony awards.

Early life[edit]

Matthau was born Walter John Matthow[2][3] in New York City's Lower East Side on October 1, 1920, the son of Rose (née Berolsky; from Lithuania), who worked in a sweatshop, and Milton Matthow, an electrician and peddler (from Russia), both Jewish immigrants.[4][5][6] As part of a lifelong love of practical jokes, Matthau himself created the rumors that his middle name was Foghorn and his last name was originally Matuschanskayasky (under which he is credited for a cameo role in the film Earthquake).[7] As a young boy, Walter attended a Jewish non-profit sleepaway camp, Tranquillity Camp, where he first began acting in the shows the camp would stage on Saturday nights. He also attended Surprise Lake Camp. His high school was Seward Park High School.[8] Matthau had a brief career as a Yiddish Theater District concessions stand cashier.[9]

Career[edit]

During World War II, Matthau served in the U.S. Army Air Forces with the Eighth Air Force in England as a B-24 Liberator radioman-gunner, in the same 453rd Bombardment Group as James Stewart. He was based at RAF Old Buckenham during this time. He reached the rank of staff sergeant and became interested in acting. He took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator. He often joked that his best early review came in a play where he posed as a derelict. One reviewer said, "The others just looked like actors in make-up, Walter Matthau really looks like a skid row bum!" Matthau was a respected stage actor for years in such fare as Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and A Shot in the Dark. He won the 1962 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a play.

Matthau and Art Carney in The Odd Couple, 1965

In 1952, Matthau appeared in the pilot of Mr. Peepers with Wally Cox. For reasons unknown he used the name Leonard Elliot. His role was of the gym teacher Mr. Wall. In 1955, he made his motion picture debut as a whip-wielding bad guy in The Kentuckian opposite Burt Lancaster.

Matthau appeared as a villain in subsequent movies, such as 1958's King Creole (in which he is beaten up by Elvis Presley). That same year, he made a western called Ride a Crooked Trail with Audie Murphy and Onionhead starring Andy Griffith and Erin O'Brien, which was a flop. Matthau had a featured role opposite Griffith in the well received drama A Face in the Crowd, directed by Elia Kazan. Matthau also directed a low-budget 1960 movie called The Gangster Story. In 1962, he was a sympathetic sheriff in Lonely are the Brave, which starred Kirk Douglas. He appeared opposite Audrey Hepburn in Charade.

Appearances on television were common too, including two on ABC's police drama, Naked City, as well as the 1963 episode "A Tumble from a Tall White House" of The Eleventh Hour. He appeared eight times between 1962 and 1964 on The DuPont Show of the Week and as Franklin Gaer in 1964 in the episode "Man Is a Rock" on Dr. Kildare. Lastly, he starred in the syndicated crime drama Tallahassee 7000, as a Florida-based state police investigator, in the 1961–1962 season.

Comedies were rare in Matthau's work at that time. He was cast in a number of stark dramas, such as 1964's Fail-Safe, in which he portrayed Pentagon adviser Dr. Groeteschele, who urges an all-out nuclear attack on the Soviet Union in response to an accidental transmission of an attack signal to U.S. Air Force bombers, in the tense and timely cold-war thriller.

In 1965, however, a plum comedy role came Matthau's way when Neil Simon cast him in the hit play The Odd Couple playing the slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison opposite Art Carney as Felix Ungar. Matthau would later reprise the role in the film version opposite Jack Lemmon as Felix Ungar. Also in 1965, he played detective Ted Casselle in the Hitchcockian thriller Mirage, with Gregory Peck and Diane Baker, a film directed by Edward Dmytryk, based on a novel by Howard Fast.

He achieved great film success in a 1966 comedy as a shyster lawyer called William H. "Whiplash Willie" Gingrich starring opposite Lemmon in The Fortune Cookie, the first of numerous collaborations with Billy Wilder, and a role that would earn him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Filming had to be placed on a five-month hiatus after Matthau suffered a serious heart attack. He gave up his three pack a day smoking habit as a result.[10]

in a photo for A New Leaf (1972)

Matthau was visibly banged up during the Oscar telecast, having been involved in a bicycle accident; nonetheless, he scolded actors who had not bothered to come to the ceremony, especially the other major award winners that night: Elizabeth Taylor, Sandy Dennis and Paul Scofield.

Oscar nominations would come Matthau's way again for 1971's Kotch, directed by Lemmon, and 1975's The Sunshine Boys, another Simon vehicle transferred from the stage, this one about a pair of former vaudeville stars. For the latter role he won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.

Broadway hits turned into films continued to cast Matthau in the leads with 1969's Hello, Dolly! and that same year's Cactus Flower, for which co-star Goldie Hawn received an Oscar. He played three different roles in the 1971 film version of Simon's Plaza Suite and was in the cast of its followup California Suite in 1978.

Matthau starred in three crime dramas in the mid-1970s, as a detective investigating a mass murder on a bus in The Laughing Policeman, as a bank robber on the run from the Mafia and the law in Charley Varrick and as a New York transit cop in the action-adventure The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. A change of pace about misfits on a Little League baseball team turned-out to be a solid hit in 1976 when Matthau starred as coach Morris Buttermaker in the comedy The Bad News Bears

In 1982, Matthau portrayed Herbert Tucker in I Ought to Be in Pictures, with Ann-Margret and Dinah Manoff, the daughter of Matthau's Plaza Suite co-star, Lee Grant.

Matthau in Hello, Dolly!, 1969

Matthau played Albert Einstein in the film "IQ", also starring Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan. His partnership with Lemmon became one of the most successful pairings in Hollywood. They became lifelong friends after making The Fortune Cookie and would make a total of 10 movies together—11 counting Kotch, in which Lemmon has a cameo as a sleeping bus passenger. Apart from their many comedies, the two appeared (though not onscreen together) in the 1991 Oliver Stone drama about the presidential assassination, JFK. In 1992, he played the narrator in Doctor Seuss Video Classics: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Matthau played the role of Mr. Wilson in the 1993 movie Dennis the Menace.

Matthau and Lemmon reunited in 1993 for the surprise box-office hit comedy Grumpy Old Men, co-starring Ann-Margret and the 1995 sequel, Grumpier Old Men, that also co-starred Sophia Loren. This led to more pairings late in their careers, notably Out to Sea and a Simon-scripted sequel to one of their great successes, The Odd Couple II. Hanging Up, a 2000 film directed by Diane Keaton, was Matthau's final appearance onscreen.

Personal life[edit]

Marriages[edit]

Matthau was married twice; first to Grace Geraldine Johnson from 1948 to 1958, and then from 1959 until his death in 2000 to Carol Marcus. He had two children, Jenny and David, by his first wife, and a son, Charlie Matthau, with his second wife. David is a radio news reporter, currently at WKXW "New Jersey 101.5" in Trenton, New Jersey. Jenny is president of the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. Matthau also helped raise his stepchildren, Aram Saroyan and Lucy Saroyan. His grandchildren include William Matthau, an engineer, and Emily Rose Roman, a student at SUNY Binghamton. Charlie Matthau directed his father in The Grass Harp (1995).

Health problems[edit]

A heavy smoker and drinker, Matthau suffered a heart attack in 1966, the first of at least three in his lifetime. In 1976, ten years after his first heart attack, he underwent heart bypass surgery. After working in freezing Minnesota weather for Grumpy Old Men in 1993, he was hospitalized for double pneumonia. In December 1995 he had a colon tumor removed; it tested benign. He was also hospitalized in May 1999 for more than two months after another bout of pneumonia.[11] In November 1999, he was diagnosed with colon cancer shortly after completing his final acting role Hanging Up.

Gambling[edit]

Matthau was a compulsive gambler, who once estimated his lifetime losses as five million dollars.[12]

Death[edit]

Walter Matthau's grave

Matthau suffered from atherosclerotic heart disease and colon cancer, which spread to his liver, lungs and brain.[13] He died of a heart attack in Santa Monica on July 1, 2000. He was 79 years old.[14] His remains are interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Less than a year later, the remains of Jack Lemmon (who died of colon and bladder cancer) were buried at the same cemetery. After Matthau's death, Lemmon as well as other friends and relatives had appeared on Larry King Live in an hour of tribute and remembrance; many of those same people appeared on the show one year later, reminiscing about Lemmon.

Carol Marcus, also a native of New York, died of a brain aneurysm in 2003. Her remains are buried on top of Matthau's.

The remains of actor George C. Scott are buried to the left of those of Walter Matthau, in an unmarked grave, and Farrah Fawcett's remains are buried to the right.

Work[edit]

Filmography[edit]

YearFilmRoleNotes
1955The KentuckianStan Bodine
1955The Indian FighterWes Todd
1956Bigger Than LifeWally Gibbs
1957A Face in the CrowdMel Miller
1957Slaughter on Tenth AvenueAl Dahlke
1958King CreoleMaxie Fields
1958Voice in the Mirror
1958Ride a Crooked TrailJudge Kyle
1958OnionheadRed Wildoe
1960Gangster StoryJack MartinAlso director
1960Strangers When We MeetFelix Anders
1962Lonely Are the BraveSheriff Morey Johnson
1962Who's Got the Action?Tony Gagouts
1963Island of Love
1963CharadeCarson Dyle aka Hamilton Bartholomew
1964Ensign PulverDoc
1964Fail-SafeProfessor Groeteschele
1964Goodbye CharlieSir Leopold Sartori
1965MirageCaselle
1966The Fortune CookieWilliam H. "Whiplash Willie" GingrichAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1967A Guide for the Married ManPaul Manning
1968The Odd CoupleOscar MadisonNominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1968The Secret Life of an American WifeThe Movie StarNominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1968CandyGeneral
1969Hello, Dolly!Horace VandergelderNominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1969Cactus FlowerDr. Julian Winston
1971A New LeafHenry Graham
1971Plaza SuiteSam Nash/Jesse Kiplinger/Roy Hubley
1971KotchJoseph P. KotcherKansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1972Pete 'n' TilliePete SeltzerBAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1973The Laughing PolicemanDetective Sergeant Jake Martin
1973Charley VarrickCharley VarrickBAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1974The Taking of Pelham One Two ThreeLieutenant Zachary "Z" Garber
1974EarthquakeDrunkCredited as Walter Matuschanskayasky[citation needed]
1974The Front PageWalter BurnsDavid di Donatello for Best Foreign Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1975The Lion Roars AgainHimselfShort subject
1975The Gentleman TrampDocumentary
1975The Sunshine BoysWilly ClarkGolden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1976The Bad News BearsMorris ButtermakerNominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1978Casey's ShadowLloyd Bourdelle
1978House CallsDr. Charles "Charley" Nichols
1978California SuiteMarvin Michaels
1980La polizia ha le mani legateDocumentary
1980Little Miss MarkerSorrowful Jones
1980HopscotchMiles KendigNominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1981First Monday in OctoberAssociate Justice Daniel SnowNominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1981Buddy BuddyTrabucco
1982Neil Simon's I Ought to Be in PicturesHerbert Tucker
1983The SurvivorsSonny Paluso
1985Movers & ShakersJoe Mulholland
1986PiratesCaptain Thomas Bartholomew Red
1988The Little DevilFather Maurice
1988The Couch TripDonald Becker
1991JFKSenator Russell B. Long
1992Beyond 'JFK': The Question of ConspiracyDocumentary
1992Doctor Seuss Video Classics: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!Narrator
1993Dennis the MenaceGeorge Wilson
1993Grumpy Old MenMax Goldman
1994I.Q.Albert Einstein
1995The Grass HarpJudge Charlie Cool
1995Grumpier Old MenMax Goldman
1996I'm Not RappaportNat Moyer
1997Out to SeaCharlie Gordon
1998The Odd Couple IIOscar Madison
1998Love After Death
1998The Life and Times of Hank GreenbergHimselfDocumentary
2000Hanging UpLou Mozell

Stage[edit]

YearStageRoleNotes
1948Anne of the Thousand Days
1950The Liar
1951Twilight WalkSam Dundee
1952Fancy Meeting You AgainSinclair Heybore
1952One Bright DayGeorge Lawrence
1952In Any LanguageCharlie Hill
1952The Grey-Eyed PeopleJohn Hart
1953The Ladies of the CorridorPaul Osgood
1953The Burning GlassTony Lack
1955Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?Michael Freeman
1955Guys and DollsNathan Detroit
1958Once More, with Feeling!Maxwell ArcherNominated – Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play
1961Once There Was a RussianPotemkin
1961A Shot in the DarkBenjamin BeaureversTony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play
1963My Mother, My Father and MeHerman Halpern
1965The Odd CoupleOscar MadisonTony Award for Best Actor in a Play

Television[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1954The Motorola Television HourEpisode: "Atomic Attack"
1954Justice
1958Alfred Hitchcock PresentsEpisode: "The Crooked Road"
1959Alfred Hitchcock PresentsEpisode: "Dry Run"
1960Juno and the Paycock
1961Alfred Hitchcock PresentsEpisode: "Cop for a Day"
1961Route 66Episode: "Eleven, the Hard Way"
1961Tallahassee 7000Cast member
1961–1962Target: The Corruptors!Two episodes
1972Awake and Sing!Moe Axelrod
1978Actor
1978Saturday Night LiveHostSeason 4, Episode 7 (2 December 1978)
1978The Stingiest Man in TownEbenezer ScroogeVoice role
1990The IncidentHarmon J. Cobb
1991Mrs. Lambert Remembers Love
1992Against Her Will: An Incident in BaltimoreHarmon J. Cobb
1994Incident in a Small TownHarmon J. Cobb
1998The Marriage Fool

References[edit]

  1. ^ Matthau, Walter - Oxford Dictionaries
  2. ^ Edelman, Rob; Audrey E. Kupferberg (2002). Matthau: a life. Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 4. ISBN 0-87833-274-X. 
  3. ^ Wright, Stuart J. (2004). An emotional gauntlet: from life in peacetime America to the war in European skies. Terrace Books. p. 179. ISBN 0-299-20520-7. 
  4. ^ Stone, Judy (September 8, 1968). "Matthau – A Sex Symbol Or a Jewish Mother?". The New York Times (NYTimes.com). Retrieved 2014-02-03. subscription required
  5. ^ "Walter Matthau Biography (1920–2000)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  6. ^ Gussow, Mel (July 2, 2000). "Walter Matthau, 79, Rumpled Star and Comic Icon, Dies". The New York Times (NYTimes.com). Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  7. ^ "Walter Matthau". Snopes.com. October 19, 2005. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  8. ^ "Famous Alumni". Seward Park High School Alumni Association. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  9. ^ Cofone, Annie (June 8, 2012). "Strolling Back Into the Golden Age of Yiddish Theater". The New York Times (NYTimes.com). Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  10. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/film/2000/jul/01/news
  11. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/film/2000/jul/01/news
  12. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000527/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
  13. ^ http://www.hollywoodmemoir.com/walter-matthau
  14. ^ "Actor Walter Matthau dies". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 2014-02-03. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]