Walter Matthau

Actor, Producer, Director
Specializing in playing curmudgeonly cranks, actor Walter Matthau parlayed his rumpled, hangdog features into a long career in film and on television. Matthau started on the stage and enjoyed lasting success on ... Read more »
Born: 09/30/1920 in New York City, New York, USA

Filmography

Actor (116)

Hanging Up 2000 (Movie)

Lou Mozell (Actor)

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg 2000 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

Neil Simon: The People's Playwright 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

The Lives of Lillian Hellman 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

The Marriage Fool 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Billy Wilder: The Human Comedy 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

Private Screenings: Lemmon & Matthau 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

The 70th Annual Academy Awards 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

The GI Bill: The Law That Changed America 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

The Odd Couple II 1998 (Movie)

Oscar Madison (Actor)

Jack Lemmon 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Jack Lemmon: America's Everyman 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Out to Sea 1997 (Movie)

Charlie (Actor)

I'm Not Rappaport 1996 (Movie)

Nat (Actor)

The Grass Harp 1996 (Movie)

Judge Charlie Cool (Actor)

Grumpier Old Men 1995 (Movie)

Max Goldman (Actor)

The 21st Annual People's Choice Awards 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

I.Q. 1994 (Movie)

Albert Einstein (Actor)

The 20th Annual People's Choice Awards 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

The First Annual Comedy Hall of Fame 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

A Menace Called Dennis 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

Dennis the Menace 1993 (Movie)

Mr Wilson (Actor)

Elvis: His Life and Times 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

Grumpy Old Men 1993 (Movie)

Max Goldman (Actor)

What Is This Thing Called Love? 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy 1991 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

J.F.K. 1991 (Movie)

Senator Russell Long (Actor)

The 48th Annual Golden Globe Awards 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

The Movie Awards 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

The 16th Annual People's Choice Awards 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

The 62nd Annual Academy Awards 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

The Incident 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Neil Simon: Not Just For Laughs 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

The 3rd Annual American Comedy Awards 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

The 61st Annual Academy Awards Presentation 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

The 2nd Annual American Comedy Awards 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

The Couch Trip 1988 (Movie)

Donald Becker (Actor)

The Little Devil 1988 (Movie)

Maurice (Actor)

We the People 200: The Constitutional Gala 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

The 1st Annual American Comedy Awards 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

George Burns' 90th Birthday Special 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Pirates 1986 (Movie)

Captain Red (Actor)

Movers & Shakers 1985 (Movie)

Joe Mulholland (Actor)

Hollywood: The Gift of Laughter 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)

Actor

I Love Liberty 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)

Actor

I Ought to Be in Pictures 1982 (Movie)

Herbert Tucker (Actor)

The Survivors 1982 (Movie)

Sonny Paluso (Actor)

Buddy Buddy 1981 (Movie)

Trabucco (Actor)

First Monday in October 1981 (Movie)

Dan Snow (Actor)

Hopscotch 1980 (Movie)

Miles Kendig (Actor)

Little Miss Marker 1980 (Movie)

Sorrowful Jones (Actor)

Portrait of a 60% Perfect Man 1979 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

California Suite 1978 (Movie)

Marvin Michaels (Actor)

Casey's Shadow 1978 (Movie)

Lloyd Bourdelle (Actor)

House Calls 1978 (Movie)

Dr Charley Nichols (Actor)

The George Burns Special 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)

Actor

The 48th Annual Academy Awards Presentation 1975 - 1976 (TV Show)

Actor

The Bad News Bears 1976 (Movie)

Coach Buttermaker (Actor)

Gentleman Tramp 1975 (Movie)

Narration (Narrator)

The Sunshine Boys 1975 (Movie)

Willy Clark (Actor)

A Show Business Salute to Milton Berle 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

Earthquake 1974 (Movie)

Drunk (Actor)

The Front Page 1974 (Movie)

Walter Burns (Actor)

The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 1974 (Movie)

Lieutenant Garber (Actor)

Charley Varrick 1973 (Movie)

Charley Varrick (Actor)

The Laughing Policeman 1973 (Movie)

Jake Martin (Actor)

Pete 'n' Tillie 1972 (Movie)

Pete (Actor)

Super Comedy Bowl 2 1971 - 1972 (TV Show)

Actor

Kotch 1971 (Movie)

Joseph P Kotcher (Actor)

Plaza Suite 1971 (Movie)

Sam/Jesse/Roy (Actor)

A New Leaf 1970 (Movie)

Henry Graham (Actor)

Cactus Flower 1969 (Movie)

Julian Winston (Actor)

Hello, Dolly! 1969 (Movie)

Horace Vandergelder (Actor)

Candy 1968 (Movie)

General Smight (Actor)

The Odd Couple 1968 (Movie)

Oscar Madison (Actor)

The Secret Life of an American Wife 1968 (Movie)

Movie Star (Actor)

A Guide For the Married Man 1967 (Movie)

Paul Manning (Actor)

The Fortune Cookie 1966 (Movie)

Willie Gingrich (Actor)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1955 - 1965 (TV Show)

Actor

Mirage 1965 (Movie)

Ted Caselle (Actor)

Profiles in Courage 1964 - 1965 (TV Show)

Actor

Ensign Pulver 1964 (Movie)

Doc (Actor)

Fail Safe 1964 (Movie)

Mr Groeteschele (Actor)

Goodbye, Charlie 1964 (Movie)

Sir Leopold Sartori (Actor)

Charade 1963 (Movie)

Bartholomew (Actor)

The United States Steel Hour 1953 - 1963 (TV Show)

Actor

Island of Love 1962 (Movie)

Tony Dallas (Actor)

Lonely Are the Brave 1962 (Movie)

Sheriff Johnson (Actor)

Who's Got the Action? 1962 (Movie)

Tony Gagoots (Actor)

Gangster Story 1960 (Movie)

Jack Martin (Actor)

Strangers When We Meet 1960 (Movie)

Felix Anders (Actor)

King Creole 1958 (Movie)

Maxie Fields (Actor)

Onionhead 1958 (Movie)

"Red" Wildoe (Actor)

Ride a Crooked Trail 1958 (Movie)

Judge Kyle (Actor)

Voice in the Mirror 1958 (Movie)

Dr Leon Karnes (Actor)

A Face in the Crowd 1957 (Movie)

Mel Miller (Actor)

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue 1957 (Movie)

Al Dahlke (Actor)

The Alcoa Hour 1955 - 1957 (TV Show)

Actor

Bigger Than Life 1956 (Movie)

Wally (Actor)

Philco Television Playhouse 1948 - 1956 (TV Show)

Actor

The Indian Fighter 1955 (Movie)

Wes Todd (Actor)

The Kentuckian 1955 (Movie)

Bodine (Actor)

A Beverly Hills Christmas (TV Show)

Actor

Incident in a Small Town (TV Show)

Actor

Mrs. Lambert Remembers Love (TV Show)

Actor

The DuPont Show of the Week (TV Show)

Actor
Producer (1)

Little Miss Marker 1980 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)
Director (1)

Gangster Story 1960 (Movie)

(Director)

Biography

Specializing in playing curmudgeonly cranks, actor Walter Matthau parlayed his rumpled, hangdog features into a long career in film and on television. Matthau started on the stage and enjoyed lasting success on Broadway, before making the transition to villainous supporting roles in films like "King Creole" (1958) and "Charade" (1963). Following more supporting roles in the comedy sequel "Ensign Pulver" (1964) and the tense political thriller "Fail-Safe" (1964), Matthau partnered for the first time with Jack Lemmon in Billy Wilder's caustic comedy, "The Fortune Cookie" (1966). The pair would go on to star opposite each other in their most famous partnership, "The Odd Couple" (1968), while Matthau branched off as the lead in a number of classic crime thrillers, including "Charlie Varrick" (1973) and "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" (1974). He forged another successful, albeit brief partnership with George Burns for "The Sunshine Boys" (1975) and delivered his most popular performance as the beer-swilling manager of a misfit Little League baseball team in "The Bad News Bears" (1976). Matthau spent much of the 1980s in a number of forgettable movies before reuniting with Lemmon for the surprisingly successful "Grumpy Old Men" (1993), which spawned the lesser sequel "Grumpier Old Men" (1995) and the unrelated "Out to Sea" (1997). Though he ended his career with a string of box office misfires, Matthau nonetheless left behind a last legacy that included numerous hit comedies, surprisingly well-acted thrillers, and one of the greatest onscreen partnerships in cinema history.

Born on Oct. 1, 1920 in New York City, Matthau was raised by his Jewish immigrant parents, Milton, an electrician and street peddler, and Rose, who toiled away in a sweatshop. When he was three years old, Matthau's father abandoned the family, leaving his mother to singlehandedly care for him and his brother, Henry. Interested in performing at a young age, he made his professional debut at 11 years old in the musical "The Dishwasher" (1931). Though he played bit parts in local Yiddish theater productions as a child, Matthau did not pursue acting in earnest until later in life. Meanwhile, he graduated from Seward Park High School in 1939 and joined the U.S. Army Air Force, where he served as a radio operator and cryptographer in the same bombardment group as James Stewart. Stationed in England, France and Germany, Matthau reached the rank of staff sergeant before his discharge in 1945. Upon his return to the United States, he moved to Reno, NV, where he worked at the Railway Express, before moving back to Manhattan.

Once back home, Matthau briefly attended the School of Journalism at Columbia University, before studying acting at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research, where he counted Tony Curtis, Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando among his classmates. Matthau took to the stage in 1946, performing in a summer stock production of "Ten Nights in a Bar Room" in Pennsylvania, and becoming a stock player for the Orange County Playhouse in New York. After becoming an understudy for "Anne of the Thousand Days" in 1948, Matthau made his Broadway debut in the play as the 85-year-old Bishop Fisher, marking the first of 18 plays in which he would act on the Great White Way. While finding success on Broadway in productions like "The Liar" (1950), Matthau made his television debut in the "Last Cruise" episode of the long-running anthology series, "Studio One" (CBS, 1948-1958). After playing Iago in a "Philco Television Playhouse" (NBC, 1948-1955) presentation of "Othello," he made his feature debut as a villainous, whip-cracking saloon-keeper in "The Kentuckian" (1955), starring and directed by Burt Lancaster.

While he was making strides on both big and small screens, Matthau's main success still came from the stage. He had his first major Broadway hit with "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" (1955) and also starred as Nathan Detroit in a 1955 revival of "Guys and Dolls." Back on the big screen, he had a supporting role in Nicholas Ray's psychological drama "Bigger than Life" (1956), which starred James Mason as a mild-mannered family man who becomes a willing participant in a drug experiment that goes awry. He went on to play a cynical newsman investigating a conniving backwoods preacher (Andy Griffiths) in "A Face in the Crowd" (1957), before returning to television to star in the short-lived syndicated series, " Tallahassee 7000" (1957). After portraying an evil crime boss who gets beat up by Elvis Presley in "King Creole" (1958), Matthau made his one and only film as a director, "Gangster Story" (1959), in which he played an up-and-coming gangster who tries to infiltrate his rival while his girlfriend (Carole Grace) attempts to reform him.

Following a supporting turn in the melodramatic "Strangers When We Meet" (1960), Matthau played a sympathetic sheriff sworn to bringing in an escaped Kirk Douglas in the allegorical Western "Lonely are the Brave" (1962). He won his first Tony Award for Best Featured Actor for his performance in Marcel Achard's "A Shot in the Dark" (1962), before turning in another fine villainous portrayal in Stanley Donen's comic mystery thriller "Charade" (1963), starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. He next co-starred opposite Robert Walker in "Ensign Pulver" (1964), rather forgettable sequel to John Ford's classic comedy "Mister Roberts" (1955), and went on to play a Henry Kissinger-like scientist opposite Henry Fonda as the U.S. president in Sidney Lumet's excellent nuclear thriller, "Fail-Safe" (1964). The following year, Matthau originated the role of Oscar Madison opposite Art Carney's Felix Unger in Neil Simon's Broadway smash, "The Odd Couple" (1965), a performance that netted him a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. From there, he teamed up with actor Jack Lemmon for the first time in Billy Wilder's caustic comedy, "The Fortune Cookie" (1966), where Matthau's sharp portrayal of an unethical lawyer who convinces Lemmon's injured cameraman to feign being paralyzed drew raves as well as earned the actor an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

After playing the husband if Inger Stevens in Gene Kelly's "A Guide for the Married Man" (1967), Matthau reprised Oscar Madison to Jack Lemmon's fastidious Felix Unger for Gene Saks' adaptation of "The Odd Couple" (1968), a role that firmly established him as a comedic leading man. Kelly then gave him his chance as a romantic leading man who sings opposite Barbra Streisand's Dolly Levi in "Hello, Dolly!" (1968), after which he reunited with Saks on the mildly amusing "Cactus Flower" (1969), featuring an Oscar-winning supporting performance by Goldie Hawn in her first significant role. Continuing their collaboration, Lemmon directed Matthau to a second Academy Award nod as Best Actor in "Kotch" (1971), a light drama where he played a curmudgeonly septuagenarian widower struggling with his family to maintain his independence. He next starred opposite Elaine May in the actress' dark romantic comedy, "A New Leaf" (1971), where he played a conniving middle-aged playboy who plans on marrying a dowdy heiress to a large fortune (May) for her money. Aside from "The Odd Couple," Matthau acted in a number of comedies adapted by Neil Simon from his plays, including appearing in all three vignettes of "Plaza Suite" (1971), directed by Arthur Hiller, scoring particularly well in the last one as the flustered father of a reluctant bride.

After starring with Carol Burnett in Martin Ritt's "Pete 'n' Tillie" (1972) and making a rare small screen appearance in "Awake and Sing" (PBS, 1972), Matthau switched gears and delivered several memorable dramatic performances. He was a cool and calculating bank robber unafraid to do what it takes to escape the law in Don Siegel's underappreciated crime thriller, "Charlie Varrick" (1973), before playing an embittered San Francisco cop on the hunt for a deranged killer in the ironically titled "The Laughing Policeman" (1973). He went on to deliver one of his strongest performances as a harried New York City cop out to nab a group of subway hijackers in Joseph Sargent's classic, "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" (1974), before reuniting with Wilder and Lemmon for the uneven comedy "The Front Page" (1974). He followed with a return to the stage for the first - and ultimately last - time in nearly a decade for the Los Angeles production of "Juno and the Paycock" (1974), and moved on to make the first of three films directed by Herbert Ross from Neil Simon scripts, "The Sunshine Boys" (1975), in which he starred alongside George Burns as cranky vaudeville partners coaxed out of retirement for a television special.

Matthau's lovable gruffness served him well in one of the most popular roles of his career, playing a drunk, down-and-out former baseball player who takes over managing a group of misfit Little Leaguers in the beloved comedy, "The Bad News Bears" (1976). As the beer-swilling pool cleaner, Morris Buttermaker, he turns the team of hopeless losers into winners with the help of a smart-mouthed hurler (Tatum O'Neal) and a cigarette-smoking punk (Jackie Earle Haley) who can hit the ball a country mile. Chock full of vulgarities uttered by pre-pubescent kids and the occasional ethnic slur - none of which would ever occur in more contemporary films - "Bad News Bears" was a true product of its time and remained a favorite among later generations. After starring with Glenda Jackson and Art Carney in the comedy "House Calls" (1978), Matthau reunited with Ross, Simon and Elaine May for a supporting turn as a cheating husband in "California Suite" (1978). But while he enjoyed enormous critical and commercial success in the 1970s, Matthau hit a rough patch in the following decade. After starring in Billy Wilder's last film, the unfortunately subpar slapstick comedy "Buddy Buddy" (1981), Matthau was top billed in Herbert Ross' listless "I Ought to Be in Pictures" (1981), portraying a screenwriter who is visited by his teenage daughter (Dinah Manoff).

Following a turn as a Supreme Court justice in the comedic drama, "First Monday in October" (1981), Matthau co-starred with Robin Williams in the poorly received comedy, "The Survivors" (1983). His disappointing choices continued with the forgettable "Movers & Shakers" (1985), a peg-leg portrayal of the Cockney-speaking Captain Red for Roman Polanski's commercial disaster, "Pirates" (1986), and the screwball comedy about mental illness "The Couch Trip" (1988). Fed up with scripts he was receiving, Matthau turned to the small screen for to revive his career. He acted for the first time in a made-for-television movie, playing Harmon Cobb, a small-town attorney during World War II who must defend a German POW accused of murder in the Emmy-winning "The Incident" (CBS, 1990), while also appearing opposite Ellen Burstyn in "Mrs. Lambert Remembers Love" (CBS, 1991). Matthau was memorable in a cameo as a skeptical U.S. senator who sows the seeds of doubt into the mind of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) about the assassination of "JFK" (1991). Meanwhile, he reprised the small-screen role of Harmon Cobb in two well-received sequels, "Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore" (CBS, 1992) and "Incident in a Small Town" (CBS, 1994).

Matthau returned to leading feature roles as the long-suffering Mr. Wilson in John Hughes' "Dennis the Menace" (1993), reaching a whole new audience of pre-adolescents before dusting off the old chemistry with partner Jack Lemmon to score a major comedy hit with "Grumpy Old Men" (1993). Suddenly, the curmudgeonly basset hound was hot again. He teamed with Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins for the would-be modern screwball comedy "I.Q." (1994), garnering the film's best notices for his pleasing portrayal of Albert Einstein, and reuniting with Lemmon for the lesser sequel, "Grumpier Old Men" (1995). His son, director Charles Matthau, cast him against type as the sweet, loveable Judge Cool in "The Grass Harp" (1995), a thoughtful drama based on Truman Capote's evocative memoir of his boyhood in the South that featured a scene between Matthau and Lemmon. He then played a feisty elderly Jew who forms an unlikely friendship with a black boxer (Ossie Davis) in Herb Gardner's "I'm Not Rappaport" (1996). From there, he reteamed with Lemmon as grumpy old men in the mediocre "Out to Sea" (1997), but went a bridge too far with the ill-conceived sequel, "The Odd Couple II" (1998). Following a reunion with Carol Burnett in "The Marriage Fool" (CBS, 1998), helmed by his son Charles, he was the perfect fit as the irascible father of Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow in the otherwise forgettable romantic comedy "Hanging Up" (2000). That proved to be the coda to his long, venerable career, as he died on June 1, 2000 after suffering a heart attack. Matthau was 79 years old, and had earlier been diagnosed with colon cancer, which had spread to other parts of his body. His old friend and comedy partner Jack Lemmon followed almost exactly a year later.

By Shawn Dwyer

Relationships

Henry Matthau

Brother

Grace Johnson

Wife
divorced has two children with Matthau

Carol Marcus

Wife
met while both were acting on Broadway in "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter" (1955) married on August 17, 1959 previously married to William Saroyan, with whom she had two children wrote memoir, "Among the Porcupines" (1992) mother of Matthau's son Charles died July 2003

Jenny Matthau

Daughter
mother, Grace Johnson

Charles Matthau

Son
born on December 10, 1965 mother, Carol Marcus acted with father in "Charley Varrick" (1973) and "House Calls" (1978) credited as associate producer on three 1981 films starring father, "I Ought to Be in Pictures", "Buddy Buddy" and "First Monday in October"

David Matthau

Son
mother, Grace Johnson

Aram Saroyan

Step-Son
born in 1944

Lucy Saroyan

Step-Daughter
born in January 1946

EDUCATION

P S 25

New York , New York

I S 64

New York , New York

Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research

New York , New York
studied with Erwin Piscator; among fellow students were Tony Curtis, Marlon Brando, Gene Saks and Rod Steiger

School of Journalism, Columbia University

New York , New York

Seward Park High School

New York , New York 1939

Milestones

2000

Cast as the ailing father in Diane Keaton's "Hanging Up", scripted by Delia and Nora Ephron; when a case of pneumonia forced him to leave the production early, son Charles stepped in and played his father's character in a few flashback scenes

1998

Starred opposite Burnett in "The Marriage Fool" (CBS), directed by son Charles

1998

Reprised role of Oscar to Lemmon's Felix in the ill-advised "The Odd Couple II", scripted by Simon

1997

Twelfth acting collaboration with Lemmon, "Out to Sea"

1996

Played angry, aging Jewish radical in Herb Gardner's film version of his play "I'm Not Rappaport"; co-starred Ossie Davis

1995

Reprised role opposite Lemmon in sequel, "Grumpier Old Men", which again featured Ann-Margret; also co-starred Sophia Loren

1995

Reteamed with son, acting in Charles' sophomore feature as director, "The Grass Harp", based on the novel by Truman Capote; in addition to Lemmon, Roddy McDowell, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie and Joe Don Baker acted in film

1994

Essayed Albert Einstein for Fred Schepisi's "I.Q.", which reteamed him with Gene Saks playing one of his cronies

1993

Co-starred with Jack Lemmon in "Grumpy Old Men", which reteamed him with Ann-Margret

1993

Portrayed the original grumpy old man, Mr. Wilson, in feature version of "Dennis the Menace"

1991

Acted in "Mrs. Lambert Remembers Love" (CBS), directed by son Charles Matthau

1990

Returned to the small screen as star of "The Incident" (CBS), directed by Joseph Sargent; appeared in two sequels, "Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore" (1992) and "Incident in a Small Town" (1994), both helmed by Delbert Mann

1988

Again collaborated with Ritchie on "The Couch Trip"; also played a priest who exorcises the devil out of a woman in Roberto Begnini's "The Little Devil" (never released in USA)

1986

Played peg-leg Captain Red in Roman Polanski's "Pirates"

1983

Reteamed with Ritchie on "The Survivors", co-starring Robin Williams

1981

Reunited with Ross and Simon for "I Ought to be in Pictures"; first film with Ann-Margret

1981

Third and last collaboration with Wilder, "Buddy Buddy", co-starring Lemmon

1980

Executive produced and starred in Walter Bernstein's remake of "Little Miss Marker"

1980

Reteamed with Jackson on "Hopscotch"

1978

"House Calls", his first film with Glenda Jackson, teamed him again with Carney who offered an hysterical turn as the addle-brained head of surgery at Matthau's hospital; also acted in Ritt's "Casey's Shadow"

1978

Reteamed with Ross, Simon and Elaine May on "California Suite"

1976

Made a fine, irascible coach of "The Bad News Bears", directed by Michael Ritchie

1975

First of three films directed by Herbert Ross and scripted by Simon from his plays, "The Sunshine Boys", co-starring George Burns; earned another Oscar nod as Best Actor

1974

First stage appearance in almost a decade (and to date last stage role), "Juno and the Paycock" in Los Angeles

1974

Billed as Walter Matuschanskavasky for his cameo in "Earthquake", adding fuel to a flame he had fanned by jokingly telling a writer a few years before that it was his "real" name

1974

Reunited with Wilder, Lemmon and Burnett for the uneven remake of "The Front Page"

1972

Acted opposite Carol Burnett in Martin Ritt's "Pete 'n' Tillie"

1972

Made rare TV appearance in "Awake and Sing" (PBS)

1970

Portrayed "gold digger" with murder on his mind in Elaine May's "A New Leaf"

1970

Second film version of a Neil Simon play, "Plaza Suite"

1970

Starred as "Kotch", directed by Lemmon; earned first Oscar nomination as Best Actor

1968

Played romantic lead in Kelly's film version of the musical "Hello, Dolly!"; Barbra Streisand played Dolly Levi

1968

Reteamed with Saks for "Cactus Flower", acting opposite Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in her first significant film role)

1968

Reprised "Odd Couple" role opposite Lemmon's Felix in film version directed by Gene Saks

1967

Reteamed with Carney in Gene Kelly's "A Guide for the Married Man"

1966

First film with Jack Lemmon and first collaboration with writer-director Billy Wilder, "The Fortune Cookie"; won Best Supporting Actor Oscar

1965

Slowed down by a serious heart attack; would have a quadruple by-pass operation in 1977

1965

Originated role of Oscar Madison on Broadway in Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" opposite Art Carney as Felix Unger

1963

Turned in another fine, villainous turn in Stanley Donen's "Charade", starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn

1959

Sole film as director, "The Gangster Story"; also co-starred

1958

Portrayed evil crime boss in Michael Curtiz's "King Creole", starring Elvis Presley

1957

Starred in short-lived syndicated TV series, "Tallahassee 7000"

1957

Played a cynical newsman investigating Andy Griffith's character in "A Face in the Crowd"

1956

Played James Mason's family friend in the underrated "Bigger Than Life", a forceful, realistic tale exposing both the good and bad of the wonder drug cortisone; produced by Mason

1955

Appeared in first hit show, as co-star of Broadway production of "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?"

1955

Film acting debut as an evil saloon keeper in "The Kentuckian", directed by and co-starring Burt Lancaster

1953

Played Iago in "Philco Television Playhouse" (NBC) presentation of "Othello"

1950

TV debut in "Last Cruise", an episode of "Studio One" (CBS)

1948

Hired as an understudy for the Broadway production of "Anne of the Thousand Days"; eventually made Broadway debut as the 85-year-old Bishop Fisher

1947

Was stock player with Orange County Playhouse (New York)

1946

Appeared in summer stock with Erie County Playhouse (Pennsylvania) in "Ten Nights in a Bar Room"

1944

Upon Army discharge went to Reno, Nevada, to work for Railway Express; eventually moved back to NYC

1941

Served in US Army Air Force as radio operator and cryptographer; stationed in England, France and Germany

1931

Professional stage debut at age 11 in "The Dishwasher", a musical comedy (date approximate)

Appeared in 18 plays on Broadway

Played bit parts in local Yiddish theater productions as child

Bonus Trivia

.

On directing: "Too much work. Anyway, I have no talent for telling people what to do. Once when I was a staff sergeant in the army, I told some corporal what to do and he said, 'fuck you, do it yourself.' And I said, 'Alright, I will.' So much for my authority." --Walter Matthau quoted in Interview, January 1996

.

"Years ago Carol [Matthau's wife] talked Walter into going to Dachau [a Nazi death camp]. They started fighting on the train about something or other. They went through Dachau, still not speaking. They were still arguing when they got back to the hotel. When they got up to their rooms, Walter said to her, absolutely straight-faced, 'I just want you to know that you ruined my trip to Dachau!'"Now that's funny. And I'm sure underneath, whether Walter was serious or not, he knew it was funny." --Jack Lemmon to Jess Cagle in Entertainment Weekly, January 28, 1994

.

"My wife is a depraved spender and I'm a degenerate gambler. For 'Grumpy Old Men', I'm gonna make $3 million. You know how long that lasts? Six months. Money is flowing like Niagara Falls into the s---house. And if I get lucky I'll die before I go broke." --Matthau in Entertainment Weekly, January 28, 1994

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"My father was a Catholic priest, Greek Orthodox, but I think he started out as a Jew, then he became a Catholic priest. Then he preached papal supremacy of the Vatican, so they kicked him out of Russia. He was from Kiev. Then he saw my mother and fell madly in love with her tits, and so he became a Jew again. Then, when he heard my mother's screaming, he left town. . . [I grew up] between First Street and Tenth Street, Second Avenue bordering First Avenue. My mother paid eight dollars a month for rent. When she had it. Mostly we were evicted, because she couldn't afford to pay the eight dollars a month. So they'd throw us out on the street, and then we'd find another place or we'd sleep in the hallways." --Matthau to Interview, December 1994

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"When I did 'The Odd Couple', I would do it a different way each night. On Monday I'd be Jewish, Tuesday Italian, Wednesday Irish-German--and I would mix them up. I did that to amuse myself, and it always worked." --Walter Matthau in Interview, December 1994

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"That's where I was good--on the stage. In the movies . . . Passable. But on the stage I could move with freedom and ease. And I had something: presence. Something you're either born with or you're not. On screen, all the power is in the hands of the director or the editor." --Matthau to Frank Thompson, The Hollywood Reporter Salute to Walter Matthau, November 1, 1996

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On working with Elvis Presley in "King Creole": "The first thing Elvis said to me was, 'Mr. Matthau, I sure would appreciate it if you could help me out with this acting thing.'"Elvis, I've seen you act and I don't think you need any help from me," Matthau told him."Then the next thing I remember we were having this fight scene. I hit him over the head with a chair--naturally they substitute the balsa-wood chair--and I'm left with a leg. I smashed him across the back as he was down on the floor. And he threw up.""It was just after lunch and it was warm in the studio and then all this activity and that final thing of me smacking him in the back.""We couldn't use that shot." --Matthau to Stephen Schaefer in New York Post, January 6, 1997

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"I don't think it's good for actors when someone says, 'Oh, there goes so-and-so. He does those grumpy parts.' When you try to do parts that are not grumpy, a part that's Mozart, say, instead of the Beatles, then they're not happy. Neither are the producers and studio heads. They want recognizable characters that people will go see more than once. It's limiting." --Matthau to Eric Harrison in Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2000

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