Born: Oct. 1, 1920 New York, New York, USA
Died: Jul 01, 2000
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Walter Matthau, a well-loved actor known for his grumpy, ruffled comic characters, died July 1st, 2000 at the age of 79. Matthau, who had a history of heart problems, arrived at the hospital in full cardiac arrest.
Matthau appeared in over 70 movies. He won an Oscar® in 1966 for his supporting role in Billy Wilder’s The Fortune Cookie. He later received two Best Actor nominations and won a Tony for his performance in A Shot in the Dark. Audiences remember him best for his wonderful performances with Jack Lemmon. The two seemed to be born to play opposite each other. They first appeared together in The Fortune Cookie and reteamed again in the 1968 film version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. The pair worked together in a total of fourteen films. In a statement, Lemmon said: “I have just lost someone I’ve loved as a brother, as my closest friend and a remarkable human being. We have also lost one of the best damn actors we’ll ever see.”
Matthau last appeared in Hanging Up as the aging father of Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow.
He was born Walter Matuschanskavasky on Oct. 1, 1920. He grew up in New York’s Lower East Side, an area he said teaches you a lot about life and therefore was a great breeding ground for actors. At the age of 11 he started working in a theater and even managed to land some small parts. He flew as a radio man-gunner in bombers during WWII, but after his stint in the military he came home to take acting classes. After doing some summer stock, he was able to land roles on Broadway and even did some TV work. His film debut was opposite Burt Lancaster in The Kentuckian. His early work was miles away from his later comedic roles and he usually played the bad guy in films like Elvis Presley’s King Creole.
Matthau first played in the stage version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, playing opposite Art Carney. The show was a hit and it led to his performance in the film version opposite Jack Lemmon, who he had first performed with in The Fortune Cookie.
Matthau’s work did not go unnoticed by his peers. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar® in 1967 for his work in The Fortune Cookie. He also received Best Actor nominations in 1971 and 1975 for Kotch and The Sunshine Boys. The Golden Globes were also generous with him. He won the Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical/Comedy for The Sunshine Boys and received nominations for First Monday in October, Hopscotch, The Front Page, Pete ‘n’ Tillie, Kotch, The Odd Couple, and The Fortune Cookie.
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