WALTER MATTHAU Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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NAME: Walter Matthau
BORN: 01/10/1920
DIED: 01/07/2000


Walter Matuschanskayasky was born to Russian Jewish immigrants. He lived with his father until the age of three’ before moving to the Lower East Side to be with his mother and older brother.


Walter started out selling soft drinks and playing bit parts at a Yiddish theatre at age 11. He was paid 50 cents for each of his early onstage appearances.


After graduating’ he took Government related jobs that included time as forester’ 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 and returned home a sergeant’ with six battle stars.


His fame came with 1966’s ‘The Fortune Cookie'’ which won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar’ and marked his first collaboration with Jack Lemmon. However’ while making it he suffered a serious heart attack and underwent heart bypass surgery.


It was his Oscar-nominated leading turn as ‘Oscar’ to Lemmon’s ‘Felix’ in ‘The Odd Couple’ that firmly established him as a comedic leading man. Continuing their collaboration’ Lemmon directed Matthau to a second Academy Award as Best Actor in ‘Kotch’.


The 80s were not great for Walter. Fed up with the kind of scripts he was getting’ he turned to the small screen. He returned to leading feature roles as the long-suffering Mr. Wilson in 1993’s ‘Dennis'’ and appeared with Lemmon again to score a major hit with ‘Grumpy Old Men’ and its sequel’ ‘Grumpier Old Men’.


1997 saw his twelfth acting collaboration with Lemmon in ‘Out to Sea'’ and the following year they worked together on ‘The Odd Couple II’.


He was perfect as the irritable father of Diane Keaton’ Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow in ‘Hanging Up'’ but a case of pneumonia forced him to leave the production early and later that year he died from a heart attack.