Walter Matthau

Lowest Rated: 9% The Survivors (1983)
Birthday: Oct 1, 1920
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Specializing in playing shambling, cantankerous cynics, Walter Matthau, with his jowly features, slightly stooped posture, and seedy, rumpled demeanor, looked as if he would be more at home as a laborer or small-time insurance salesman than as a popular movie star equally adept at drama and comedy. An actor who virtually put a trademark on cantankerous behavior, Matthau was a staple of the American cinema for almost four decades.The son of poor Jewish-Russian immigrants, Matthau was born on October 1, 1920, in New York City and raised in a cold-water flat on the Lower East Side. His introduction to acting came during his occasional employment at the Second Avenue Yiddish Theater, where he sold soda pops during intermission for 50 cents per show. Following WWII service as an Air Force radioman and gunner, Matthau studied acting at the New School for Social Research Dramatic Workshop. Experience with summer stock led to his first Broadway appearances in the 1940s, and at the age of 28 he got his first break serving as the understudy to Rex Harrison's character in the Broadway drama Anne of a Thousand Days. After having his first major Broadway success with A Shot in the Dark, Matthau began working on the screen, usually in small supporting roles that cast him as thugs, villains, and louts in such films as The Kentuckian (1955) and King Creole (1958). Only occasionally did he get to play more sympathetic roles in films such as Lonely Are the Brave (1962). In 1959, he tried his hand at directing with Gangster Story. In addition to his stage and feature-film work, Matthau appeared in a number of television shows. Just when it seemed that he was to be permanently relegated to playing supporting and dark character roles on stage and screen, Matthau won the part of irretrievably slavish sportswriter Oscar Madison in the first Broadway production of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple (1965). Simon wrote the role especially for Matthau, and the show made both the playwright and the actor major stars. In film, Matthau played his first comic role (for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) in Billy Wilder's The Fortune Cookie (1966). The film also marked the first of many times that Matthau would be paired with Jack Lemmon. The unmistakable chemistry at play between the well-mannered, erudite Lemmon and the sharp-tongued, earthy Matthau exploded when they were paired onscreen, and was on particularly brilliant display in the hit film version of The Odd Couple (1967). Good friends with Lemmon both onscreen and off, Matthau starred in his directorial debut, Kotch (1971), and starred alongside him in The Front Page (1974) and Buddy Buddy, both of which did little for Matthau and Lemmon's careers. As a duo, the two again found success when they played two coots who were too busy feuding to realize that they were best friends in Grumpy Old Men (1993). They reprised their roles in a 1995 sequel and also appeared together in The Grass Harp (1995), Out to Sea (1997), and 1998's The Odd Couple II. On his own, Matthau continued developing his comically cynical persona in such worthy ventures as Plaza Suite (1971), California Suite (1978), and especially The Sunshine Boys (1975), in which he was paired with George Burns. He proved ridiculously endearing as a grizzled, broken-down, beer-swilling little league coach with a marshmallow heart in The Bad News Bears (1976), and further expressed his comic persona in such comedies as 1993's Dennis the Menace, in which he played the cantankerous Mr. Wilson, and the romantic comedy I.Q. (1994), which cast him as Albert Einstein.Though many of his roles were of the comic variety, Matthau occasionally returned to his dramatic roots with ventures such as the crime thriller Charley Varrick (1973) and The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 (1974). In addition to his work in feature films, Matthau also continued to make occasional appearances in made-for-television movies, one of which, Mrs. Lambert Remembers Love (1991), was


Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet Slaughter On Tenth Avenue Actor 2012
No Score Yet Portrait d'un homme 'à 60% parfait': Billy Wilder (Portrait of a '60% Perfect Man': Billy Wilder) Actor 2012
No Score Yet The Great Man W.C. Fields Actor 2005
12% Hanging Up Lou 2000
97% The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg Actor 2000
No Score Yet The Marriage Fool Frank Walsh 1998
27% The Odd Couple II Oscar Madison 1998
36% Out to Sea Charlie 1997
38% I'm Not Rappaport Nat 1996
50% The Grass Harp Judge Charlie Cool 1996
17% Grumpier Old Men Max Goldman 1995
44% I.Q. Albert Einstein 1994
No Score Yet Incident In A Small Town Harmon Cobb 1994
63% Grumpy Old Men Max Goldman 1993
28% Dennis the Menace George Wilson 1993
84% JFK Sen. Russell Long 1991
No Score Yet Mrs. Lambert Remembers Love Clifford 1991
No Score Yet The Incident Harmon Cobb 1990
No Score Yet Il Piccolo diavolo (The Little Devil) Maurice 1988
38% The Couch Trip Donald Becker 1988
No Score Yet The AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards: Jack Lemmon Actor 1988
33% Pirates Capt. Thomas Bartholomew Red 1986
No Score Yet The AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards: Billy Wilder Actor 1986
No Score Yet Movers & Shakers Joe Mulholland 1985
9% The Survivors Sonny Paluso 1983
No Score Yet I Ought to Be in Pictures Herbert Tucker 1982
No Score Yet First Monday in October Dan Snow 1981
62% Buddy Buddy Trabucco 1981
No Score Yet Little Miss Marker Producer Executive Producer Sorrowful Jones 1980
77% Hopscotch Miles Kendig/James Butler/Mr. Hannaway/Leonard Ross 1980
57% California Suite Marvin Michaels 1978
62% The End Actor 1978
75% Casey's Shadow Lloyd Bourdelle 1978
29% House Calls Dr. Charley Nichols 1978
100% The Stingiest Man in Town Actor 1978
97% The Bad News Bears Coach Morris Buttermaker 1976
78% The Sunshine Boys Willy Clark 1975
No Score Yet The Gentleman Tramp Narrator 1975
68% The Front Page Walter Burns 1974
38% Earthquake Drunk 1974
100% The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Lieutenant Garber 1974
58% The Laughing Policeman Sgt. Jake Martin 1973
88% Charley Varrick Charley Varrick 1973
80% Pete 'n' Tillie Pete 1972
No Score Yet Awake and Sing! Moe Axelrod 1972
75% Kotch Joseph Kotcher 1971
63% Plaza Suite Sam Nash/Jesse Kiplinger/Roy Hubley 1971
100% A New Leaf Henry Graham 1971
No Score Yet Patton: Old Blood and Guts Host 1970
43% Hello, Dolly! Horace Vandergelder 1969
88% Cactus Flower Dr. Julian Winston 1969
57% Candy Gen. Smight 1968
100% The Odd Couple Oscar Madison 1968
No Score Yet The Secret Life of an American Wife The Movie Star 1968
57% A Guide for the Married Man Paul Manning 1967
96% The Fortune Cookie Willie Gingrich 1966
No Score Yet Mirage Ted 1965
No Score Yet Goodbye Charlie Sir Leopold Sartori 1964
95% Fail-Safe Groeteschele 1964
No Score Yet Ensign Pulver Doc 1964
95% Charade Hamilton Bartholemew 1963
No Score Yet Island of Love Tony Dallas 1963
No Score Yet Who's Got the Action? Tony Gagouts 1963
92% Lonely are the Brave Sheriff Morey Johnson 1962
No Score Yet Strangers When We Meet Felix Anders 1960
No Score Yet Gangster Story Director Jack Martin 1959
No Score Yet Onionhead `Red' Wildoe 1958
100% King Creole Maxie Fields 1958
No Score Yet Sendas Torturosas Judge Kyle 1958
93% A Face in the Crowd Mel Miller 1957
93% Bigger Than Life Wally Gibbs 1956
No Score Yet The Indian Fighter Wes Todd 1955
No Score Yet The Kentuckian Stan Bodine 1955


No Score Yet Saturday Night Live
Guest Host
  • 1978
No Score Yet Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Harry Wade Moran Phil Officer
  • 1961
  • 1960
  • 1959
  • 1958
No Score Yet American Masters