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Walter Matthau

Best know to classic movie fans for his role as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple opposite his on screen partner Jack Lemmon.



The Kentuckian

The Indian Fighter



Bigger Than Life



A Face in the Crowd

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue



King Creole

Voice in the Mirror

Ride a Crooked Trail




Gangster Story

Strangers When We Meet



Lonely Are the Brave

Who’s Got the Action?




Island of Love



Ensign Pulver

Fail Safe



Goodbye Charlie






The Fortune Cookie



A Guide for the Married Man



The Odd Couple

The Secret Life of an American Wife




Cactus Flower

Hello, Dolly!



A New Leaf

Plaza Suite




Pete ‘n’ Tillie



Charley Varrick

The Laughing Policeman



The Taking of Pelham One Two Three


The Front Page



The Lion Roars Again

The Gentleman Tramp

The Sunshine Boys



The Bad News Bears



Casey’s Shadow

House Calls

California Suite



La polizia ha le mani legate

Little Miss Marker




First Monday in October

Buddy Buddy



Neil Simon’s I Ought to Be in Pictures



The Survivors



Movers & Shakers






The Couch Trip

The Little Devil






Beyond ‘JFK’: The Question of Conspiracy

Dr. Seuss Video Classics: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!



Dennis the Menace

Grumpy Old Men






The Grass Harp

Grumpier Old Men



I’m Not Rappaport



Out to Sea



The Odd Couple II

Love After Death

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg



Hanging Up


Walter Matthau was nominated for and won one Academy Award Best Actor in a Supporting Role for The Fortune Cookie (1966).

He was nominated for two Academy Award Best Actor in a Leading Role for Kotch (1971) and The Sunshine Boys (1975)

I think doing comedy is more difficult … than doing noncomedic or tragic or whatever you want to call it. Because it’s difficult to make all kinds of different audiences understand what you’re doing, and moving you to laughter. ~ Walter Matthau

Walter Matthau was born Walter John Matthow on October 1, 1920, in New York City’s Lower East Side. His mother, Rose (née Berolsky), was a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant who worked in a garment sweatshop, and his father, Milton Matthow, was a Russian Jewish peddler and electrician, from Kiev, Ukraine. 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).

As a young boy, Matthau 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. He went to high school at Seward Park High School. He worked for a short time as a concession stand cashier in the Yiddish Theatre District.

During World War II, Matthau served in the U.S. Army Air Forces with the Eighth Air Force in Britain as a Consolidated B-24 Liberator radioman-gunner, in the same 453rd Bombardment Group as James Stewart. He was based at RAF Old Buckenham, Norfolk during this time, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. He reached the rank of staff sergeant

He took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School with German director Erwin Piscator. He often joked that his best early review came in a play where he posed as a derelict.

Matthau appeared in the pilot of Mister Peepers (1952) with Wally Cox. For reasons unknown he used the name Leonard Elliot. His role was of the gym teacher Mr. Wall. He made his motion picture debut as a whip-wielding bad guy in The Kentuckian (1955) opposite Burt Lancaster. He played a villain in King Creole (1958), in which he gets beaten up by Elvis Presley. Around the same time, he made Ride a Crooked Trail with Audie Murphy, and Onionhead (both 1958) starring Andy Griffith; the latter was a flop. Matthau had a featured role opposite Griffith in the well received drama A Face in the Crowd (1957), directed by Elia Kazan. Matthau also directed a low-budget movie called The Gangster Story (1960) and was a sympathetic sheriff in Lonely Are the Brave (1962), which starred Kirk Douglas. He appeared opposite Audrey Hepburn in Charade (1963).

Comedies were rare in Matthau’s work at that time. He was cast in a number of stark dramas, such as Fail Safe (1964), 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. Neil Simon cast him in the play The Odd Couple in 1965, with Matthau playing slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison, opposite Art Carney as Felix Ungar. Matthau later reprised the role in the film version, with Jack Lemmon as Felix Ungar. He played detective Ted Casselle in the Hitchcockian thriller Mirage (1965), directed by Edward Dmytryk.

Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Monica Evans, and Carole Shelley in The Odd Couple (1968)

Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Monica Evans, and Carole Shelley in The Odd Couple (1968)

He achieved great success in the comedy film, The Fortune Cookie (1966), as a shyster lawyer, William H. “Whiplash Willie” Gingrich, starring opposite Lemmon, and the first of many 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. Matthau appeared during the Oscar telecast shortly after having been injured in a bicycle accident; nonetheless, he scolded actors who had not attended the ceremony, especially the other major award winners that night: Paul Scofield,