|WALTER MATTHAU (THE FACE)|
|WALTER IN THE ODD COUPLE 1968 WITH JACK LEMMON|
|Street: HOLLYWOOD||City & State: HOLLYWOOD, CA||E-Mail:|
|Zip:||Phone:||Spouse: Grace Geraldine Johnson AND Carol Marcus|
|Conflict: World War II||Service Branch: Army Air Corp||Unit: 8TH AIR FORCE ,453 BOMB GROUP|
|Theater: ETO||Basic Training:||Date Entered Service: 04/04/42|
|Bases Stationed: France, Belgium, Holland and Germany||Length Of Service: 1290 days|
|Discharged / Retired: HONORABLE||Date Left Service: 10/15/45||Age When Enlisted:|
|Medals Received: DSM, ET CAMPAIN|
|Military Job: Matthau was a ground radio operator and cryptographer||Occupation After War:|
|Primary Civilian Employer:|
|Date This Site First Published: 7/3/00||Date Last Edited: 7/3/00|
Born Walter Matuschanskavasky in New York City on October 10, 1920, died July 2, 2000 . Matthau grew up in New York's Lower East Side, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in April 1942. After basic training, he was trained at the Army Air Force radio school at Savannah, Georgia, as a radio operator and gunner. (All flight crewmembers were required to take gunnery training.) After training, he was assigned to the 453rd Bomb Group and went overseas to RAF station 144, Old Buckenham, near Attleborough, England as part of the 8th Air Force.
Matthau was a ground radio operator and cryptographer, and saw service in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He remembers serving with Jimmy Stewart, who was an operations officer giving mission briefings to the group. He returned to Reno, Nevada, as part of the Air Transport Command, and was discharged in October 1945 from Sacramento, California, as a staff sergeant.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Academy Award-winning actor Walter Matthau, whose hangdog looks and grouchy, slouchy demeanor transformed him from an early player of straight-on toughs and bad guys into one of America's best-loved comic film stars, died Saturday. He was 79.
A spokeswoman for St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, said Matthau, who had a history of heart problems, was brought to the hospital early Saturday in full cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at 1:42 a.m. PDT.
Fans were gathering by late morning Saturday to place flowers on Matthau's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, fondly remembering the actor for his portrayals of usually rumpled, cantankerous characters.
Matthau spent five decades in show business, appearing in more than 60 films, winning his Academy Award for best supporting actor for the 1966 Billy Wilder hit The Fortune Cookie and later two best-actor nominations. He won a Tony Award for his stage work in A Shot in the Dark.
But Matthau was best known for playing perpetually cranky and unkempt sportswriter Oscar Madison opposite Jack Lemmon's fastidious Felix Unger in 1968's The Odd Couple, a part he seemed born to play.
PART WRITTEN FOR HIM
In a way he was. Playwright Neil Simon wrote the Broadway version with Matthau in mind, and that 1965 sensation, with Art Carney as Felix, catapulted him to stardom. Simon called Matthau the greatest instinctive actor he had ever seen.
Matthau would later star with Lemmon in the films Grumpy Old Men, Grumpier Old Men, Buddy Buddy and The Front Page in one of Hollywood's best-loved partnerships.
Lemmon, in a statement released through his agent, 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 won his best actor nominations for playing a grumpy grandfather in 1971's Kotch and George Burns' feuding show-business partner in 1975's The Sunshine Boys.
In an interview with CNN, Matthau said of Lemmon, his longtime friend and co-star, When we were working, we always seemed to understand what we're thinking about.
Lemmon once told CNN: It was a very unusual relationship because right from the start it just clicked. There was nothing to it.
Lemmon, himself considered one of Hollywood's great film comedians, said Matthau's talents were underrated, calling him a marvelous, wonderful actor.
APPEARED IN HANGING UP
Matthau's last appearance on the big screen was as the aging father of sisters played by Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow in this year's Hanging Up.
Matthau, whose dry, unpredictable wit off-screen made him a perennially good interview subject, once said that with a face like his, he was destined to be a villain or a comic.
In addition to his laconic manner and cynical, bemused expressions, Matthau had a face more than one writer compared to an unmade bed. Matthau saw it as a strength that set him apart in a Hollywood awash in a sea of glamour.
I don't look like an actor, he said. I could be anyone from a toilet attendant to a business executive. Most people look at me on the street and say, 'Who the hell is that guy? Was I in the Army with him?'
Matthau, who jokingly called himself the Ukrainian Cary Grant, was born Walter Matuschanskavasky on Oct. 1, 1920, to poor Russian-Jewish parents.
He grew up on the Lower East Side of New York, where you learn a lot about life, your facial muscles get workouts and never forget, and that can serve you well as an actor.
Matthau also made light of his acting training, saying: I come to every part totally unprepared. I don't want any methodology to tarnish the way I used to make my mother laugh -- by imitating the landlady asking for the rent.
STARTED IN YIDDISH THEATER
As a boy of 11, he sold soft drinks in a Yiddish theater, eventually winning bit parts. After high school and a Second World War stint as a radio man-gunner on Army bombers, he took acting classes.
Work in summer stock led to parts on Broadway and in television shows. He made his film debut in The Kentuckian as a wily villain who tricks star Burt Lancaster into a fight with whips.
Through the remainder of the 1950s, he showed proficiency at playing bad guys and drunks in a variety of modest movies, including the Elvis Presley film King Creole (1958) and an Audie Murphy Western, Ride a Crooked Trail (1958).
But it was The Odd Couple that made Matthau a star. The story goes that Simon was at a cocktail party when he walked over to Matthau and said, You're gonna be in my next play. Replied Matthau, Who are you?
Simon had to convince Matthau to play Madison. The actor wanted to play finicky Felix Unger instead because the Madison part was too close to his own personality. A year later, Matthau first teamed with Lemmon in The Fortune Cookie. Matthau played a sleazy lawyer, Lemmon his brother-in-law.
Matthau survived a 1965 heart attack, a 1975 quadruple coronary bypass operation and a gambling habit that once cost him $183,000 in two weeks. He spent two weeks in a hospital with pneumonia in May 1999 but made a full recovery.
Matthau, who lived in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, had two children, Jennie and David, by his first wife, Grace Geraldine Johnson, and a son, Charlie, by his second wife, former actress Carol Marcus, whom he wed in 1959.
|My Message to Future Generations:
IN MY MOVIES, WALTER
|THE FACE, GRUMPY OLD MEN|
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