During a high profile Mafia testimony case in California's Riverside County, a hired killer checks-in a hotel room near the courthouse while his next door depressed neighbor wants to commit suicide due to marital problems.
A cameraman is knocked over during a football game. His brother in law as the king of the ambulance chasing lawyers starts a suit while he's still knocked out. The cameraman is against it until he hears that his ex-wife will be coming to see him. He pretends to be injured to get her back, but also sees what the strain is doing to the football player who injured him.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On the third day of filming, Billy Wilder gave Walter Matthau a direction with which he disagreed. Instead of arguing, Matthau said, "You speak kind of funny, Billy - are you from out of town." See more »
Keith Jackson never called NFL games for CBS. However in the credits he is listed as "Football Announcer", not as himself, so this is not necessarily a mistake. See more »
I'm his brother-in-law, Sister. And this is his mother, Sister, and this is my wife, his sister, Sister.
See more »
In The Fortune Cookie, Billy Wilder took on the great American legal system and twisted a lot of laughs out of it. It's the underside of the great American dream, sue someone with deep pockets and you can be a millionaire. It's why we have too many lawyers in our society, it's what creates Willie Gingrich.
In three previous Wilder pictures folks like Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity, William Holden in Sunset Boulevard, and Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole all had some similar notions about a get rich and/or famous quick scheme and they all ended in tragedy. Interesting that protagonist Jack Lemmon as TV cameraman Harry Hinkle has more strength of character than those three before him.
Not at first though. Jack Lemmon is a TV cameraman who is covering a Cleveland Browns football game in Municipal Stadium when running back Ron Rich takes him out when Rich goes out of bounds. That's where attorney and brother-in-law of Lemmon, Walter Matthau hears about a previous spinal injury Lemmon sustained and he hatches a scheme involving Lemmon who is supposed to now act paralyzed so he can sue CBS, Municipal Stadium, and the Cleveland Browns for as much as he can wring out of them.
Matthau won his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor playing bottom feeding lawyer, Whiplash Willie Gingrich. With that kind of nickname in the profession it's no wonder that the white shoe firm representing the defending parties goes all out to trip him up. They get private detective Cliff Osmond to shadow Lemmon night and day. The results he gets from his surveillance are not unexpected, but a lot of laughs come along with them.
Matthau is so good as Gingrich that you can literally see his mind at work as he hears about Lemmon's childhood fractured vertebrae from his wife who is Lemmon's sister. Watching his kids skateboarding in the hospital waiting room you kind of wonder what kind of ethics he's been teaching them at home. Note that when you last see Willie Gingrich in the film, he's down, but not yet out.
There's a couple of other good performances here. Ron Rich as the Brown halfback who really is concerned that he permanently paralyzed Jack Lemmon. Also Judi West as Lemmon's ex-wife who when she hears about Lemmon's possible windfall, she's ready to reconcile with him. Matthau is ready to use her of course, but even he gets kind of put off with her ethics. This is also the farewell performance of Sig Ruman, who Billy Wilder liked to use when he could, both of them being refugees from Hitler. Ruman is one of the specialists brought in and the only one who's not fooled by Lemmon's performance.
The Fortune Cookie even after 40 years still has plenty of laughs for this generation. That is sadly because this is part of the American legal system that if anything has increased exponentially since 1966.
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