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|Also Known As:||Died:||July 1, 2000|
|Born:||October 1, 1920||Cause of Death:||heart attack|
|Birth Place:||New York City, New York, USA||Profession:||actor, director, producer, soda vendor|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
onically 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 Sargentâ¿¿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 â¿¿ and ultimately last â¿¿ 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 Oâ¿¿Neal) and a cigarette-smoking punk (Jackie Earle...
onically 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 Sargentâ¿¿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 â¿¿ and ultimately last â¿¿ 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 Oâ¿¿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 â¿¿ none of which would ever occur in more contemporary films â¿¿ "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 Wilderâ¿¿s last film, the unfortunately subpar slapstick comedy "Buddy Buddy" (1981), Matthau was top billed in Herbert Rossâ¿¿ 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 Dwyerother fine villainous portrayal in Stanley Donenâ¿¿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 Fordâ¿¿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 Lumetâ¿¿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 Wilderâ¿¿s caustic comedy, "The Fortune Cookie" (1966), where Matthau's sharp portrayal of an unethical lawyer who convinces Lemmonâ¿¿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 Lemmonâ¿¿s fastidious Felix Unger for Gene Saksâ¿¿ 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 actressâ¿¿ 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 Siegelâ¿¿s underappreciated crime thriller, "Charlie Varrick" (1973), before playing an embittered San Francisco cop on the hunt for a deranged killer in the ir
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CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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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