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Walter Matthau Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (6) | Trivia (29) | Personal Quotes (14) | Salary (4)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 1 October 1920Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 1 July 2000Santa Monica, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameWalter John Matthow
Nickname Jake
Height 6' 3" (1.91 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Born Walter Matthow on October 1, 1920, to a pair of Russian Jewish immigrants in New York City, Matthau grew up in poverty on the Lower East Side. He started out selling soft drinks and playing bit parts at a Yiddish theater troupe at age 11. He was paid 50 cents for each of his occasional on-stage appearances. His father, a peddler from Kiev, left home when he was 3 years old. He lived with his older brother, Henry, and their mother, a garment worker, on the Lower East Side of New York. After graduating from Seward Park High School during the Depression, he took government jobs as a forest ranger in Montana, a gym instructor for the Works Progress Administration, and a boxing coach for policemen. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a radio cryptographer in a heavy bomber unit in Europe and returned home a sergeant with six battle stars.

In 1948, his first Broadway role was when he was hired as an understudy for the role of an 83 year old English bishop in 'Anne of the Thousand Days' starring Rex Harrison. His fame came with The Fortune Cookie (1966) and The Odd Couple (1968). While making the former, he suffered a serious heart attack. This was due to heavy smoking and chronic gambling. Matthau immediately quit smoking and began a life-long regime of walking 2-5 miles per day.

Matthau's acting career continued to flourish for the next 30 years with him playing memorable lead and supporting characters in both dramatic and comic films, several of them alongside Jack Lemmon. Unbeknownst to his fans, Matthau continued to battle heart disease and was later diagnosed with two forms of cancer. In 1976, he had heart bypass surgery. In 1993, he was hospitalized for double pneumonia. In 1995, he had a benign colon tumor removed. In 1999, he was hospitalized again for pneumonia where he was diagnosed again with cancer. Walter Matthau died on July 1, 2000, at age 79.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Sid Dithers <sid@dithers.com>

Spouse (2)

Carol Grace (21 August 1959 - 1 July 2000) (his death) (1 child)
Grace Geraldine Johnson (1948 - 1958) (divorced) (2 children)

Trade Mark (6)

Often worked with Billy Wilder
Frequently worked with Jack Lemmon
Deadpan voice
Slouching posture
Craggy, hangdog face
Gravelly baritone voice and New York accent

Trivia (29)

Big break came when understudying the actor who played the Archbishop in "Anne Of The Thousand Days," starring Rex Harrison.
Brought to the St. John's Health Center after suffering a heart attack by ambulance and was pronounced dead shortly afterward at 1:42 a.m.
Buried at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park. Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, Natalie Wood, Donna Reed, among other stars are buried at this cemetery.
People were never sure if he was joking or saying things seriously, either on-screen or off-screen.
He hated to be identified as a comedic actor.
He once claimed that his father was an Orthodox priest in the Czarist Russia, who was removed after he claimed that the Pope was infallible.
Once claimed that his wife's name was Carol Wellington-Smythe Marcus, just to give it a more "aristocratic" sound.
When he inscribed himself formally to the U.S. Social Security in 1937, he included "Foghorn" as his middle name. He never changed it.
Studied in the dramatic workshop at New York's New School with Gene Saks, Rod Steiger, Harry Guardino and Tony Curtis.
Served in the US Army Air Force, 8th Air Force, 453rd Bombardment Group in England with James Stewart.
He once estimated his lifetime gambling losses at $5 million.
While making a TV series in Florida before his movie stardom, he lost $183,000 betting on spring-training baseball games.
After filming Grumpy Old Men (1993) in 1993 in freezing weather in Minnesota, he was hospitalized for double pneumonia.
Uncle of Juliette Gruber.
Reports are that he made up "Matuschanskayasky" as a joke and that his real "real" name is Matthow. The existence of Michelle Matthow would seem to confirm this...
According to son Charlie, Walter's real name was Walter Matthow, but changed it to Walter Matuschanskayasky to sound more exotic.
Was passionate about classical music and often sang pieces by Mozart on the set.
Father, with Grace Geraldine Johnson, of son David Matthau and daughter Jenny Matthau. Father, with Carol Grace, of son Charles Matthau.
Stepfather of Lucy Saroyan and Aram Saroyan.
Very tall as young man (6' 3"), Matthau had a very slouchy posture by the time he was an actor. This was in part due to back injuries attained in combat in World War II, but he probably exaggerated it because the slouch fitted his miserly characters.
Dan Castellaneta has said that his original voice for Homer Simpson was simply an impression of Matthau.
Won two Tony Awards: in 1962, as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for "A Shot in the Dark," and in 1965 as Best Actor (Dramatic) for "The Odd Couple," recreating his part as Oscar Madison in the film version of the same name, The Odd Couple (1968). Previously, he also had a Tony nomination in 1959 as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for "Once More, with Feeling."
Dealt with a gambling addiction his entire adult life.
He and Jack Lemmon acted together in 9 movies: Buddy Buddy (1981), The Fortune Cookie (1966), The Front Page (1974), The Grass Harp (1995), Grumpier Old Men (1995), Grumpy Old Men (1993), The Odd Couple II (1998), The Odd Couple (1968) and Out to Sea (1997). Lemmon also directed Matthau in Kotch (1971). Lemmon and Matthau also both appeared in JFK (1991), but had no scenes together.
Screen-tested for the part of Richard Sherman in The Seven Year Itch (1955). After seeing his test, director Billy Wilder believed he had found his leading man. Unfortunately, executives at 20th Century Fox were unwilling to take a risk on an unknown newcomer. Because of this, the role went to Tom Ewell, who had originated the role on Broadway.
Appeared in Ensign Pulver (1964), the sequel to Mister Roberts (1955), for which his friend Jack Lemmon won an Oscar.
During the filming of Hello, Dolly! (1969), he clashed with Barbra Streisand and disliked her so intensely that he refused to be around her except when required to do so by the script. He is famously quoted as telling Streisand that she "had no more talent than a butterfly's fart." Interestingly, he is clearly seen in the audience at the One Voice (1986) concert at her Malibu ranch, where invitation-only guests had the privilege of paying $5,000 per couple to help establish the Streisand Foundation, which supports numerous charitable organizations. Apparently, he did not hold grudges.
Had one sibling, an older brother named Henry Matthow, (born July 14, 1918. Died May 21, 1995), in Long Beach, NY. His Mother, Rose Matthow, was born December 15, 1894, and died in Pacific Palisades, CA, in January 1979.
Played Albert Einstein in the film I.Q. (1994) even though he was a half-foot taller than the famous scientist.

Personal Quotes (14)

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.
I never mind my wife having the last word. In fact, I'm delighted when she gets to it.
Every actor looks all his life for a part that will combine his talents with his personality. The Odd Couple (1968) was mine. That was the plutonium I needed. It all started happening after that.
I always had one ear offstage, listening for the call from the bookie.
The first girl you go to bed with is always pretty.
'Get out of show business.' It's the best advice I ever got, because I'm so stubborn that if someone would tell me that, I would stay in it to the bitter end.
To be successful in show business, all you need are 50 good breaks.
I'd love to work with Barbra Streisand again. In something appropriate. Perhaps, Macbeth.
He [Elvis Presley] was an instinctive actor...He was quite bright...he was very intelligent...He was not a punk. He was very elegant, sedate, and refined, and sophisticated.
A lot of parts I want they give to Robert Redford.
[on Glenda Jackson] She's an absolute dreamboat, the epitome of professionalism, a splendid actress, and she has all the make-up of a fully rounded person.
[on Barbra Streisand] I had no disagreement with Barbra Streisand. I was merely exasperated at her tendency to be a complete megalomaniac.
[1984 remark on Barbra Streisand] The most extraordinary ... er ... uninteresting person I have ever met. I just found her to be a terrible bore ... She was doing something and asked the director if I wouldn't mind saying my lines in a certain way. I think I said something to her like, "I was acting before you were born, so please don't tell me how to act." And she said, in her own inimitable way, "Is this guy crazy or something?".
[on Barbara Stanwyck] Here was an actress that never played just one side of a character. She always played the truth. I once asked Barbara Stanwyck the secret of acting, and she said, "Just be truthful, and if you can fake that, you've got it made."

Salary (4)

Gangster Story (1959) $2,500
The Odd Couple (1968) $300,000
Candy (1968) $50,000plus points
The Bad News Bears (1976) $800,000

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