With his trademark hangdog expression and droopy posture, Walter Matthau became known for his roles as the lovable grump.
Matthau, whose delivery often modulated between a growl and a bark, often came across as a grumpy old man even when he was relatively young.
He was one of the few actors in Hollywood to move successfully from supporting roles as heavies and ethnic types to leading man. He excelled at both comedy and drama in his career of more than 50 years. But it was the comic persona perfected in such movies as Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple," opposite his frequent foil Jack Lemmon, for which he was best known.
Matthau, an inveterate gambler known for his private penchant for raunchy humor, is indelibly linked in the public's mind with Lemmon, with whom he bickered and sparred in 10 movies, starting with "The Fortune Cookie" in 1966. Among their other pairings were "Grumpy Old Men" in 1993 and "Grumpier Old Men" in 1995, "Out to Sea" in 1997 and a sequel to "The Odd Couple" in 1998 in which Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar reunited after 30 years to travel to the wedding of their children.
Matthau was never a conventional romantic lead, yet he played opposite some of Hollywood's top leading ladies and comedians, including Barbra Streisand ("Hello, Dolly!"), Carol Burnett ("Pete 'n' Tillie"), Elaine May ("A New Leaf"), Ingrid Bergman ("Cactus Flower") and Glenda Jackson ("House Calls" and "Hopscotch").
He won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his performance as an unethical lawyer in "The Fortune Cookie," Billy Wilder's caustic comedy. It was the first of three films he made with Wilder and the first movie he appeared in with Lemmon. Matthau also received best-actor Oscar nominations for "Kotch" (1971) and "The Sunshine Boys" (1975).
|1966||Best Supporting Actor||The Fortune Cookie||Win|
|1975||Best Actor||The Sunshine Boys||Nomination|