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Walter Matthau

Walter Matthau was an Academy Award and multi-Tony award-winning American actor/comedian of the films The Odd Couple, The Fortune Cookie, Hello, Dolly!, California Suite, The Front Page, The Sunshine Boys, 1976's The Bad News Bears, Dennis the Menace and Grumpy Old Men.

Best known for his mastery of comedy, Matthau was equally impressive as villains, and in dramatic roles. Action thrillers such as Charley Varrick, Charade, and 1974's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, also showed his great versatility.

His hangdog looks and grouchy, slouchy demeanor made him perfect for the role of slob Oscar Madison, opposite Jack Lemmon's neatnik, hypochondriac, Felix Unger, in the classic, The Odd Couple. It was one of many motion picture collaborations between the lifelong friends.

Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Walter John Matthow*

Date and place of birth: October 1, 1920, New York City, New York, U.S.A.

Date, time, place and cause of death: July 1, 2000, at 1:42 a.m.**, St. John's Hospital and Health Center, Santa Monica, California, U.S.A. (Heart attack)

Marriage #1
Spouse: Grace Geraldine Johnson (m. 1948 - 1958) (divorced)

Marriage #2
Spouse: Carol Grace Marcus (m. August 21, 1959 - July 1, 2000) (his death)

Sons: David Matthau (by his 1st wife), and Charles Matthau (by his 2nd wife)
Daughter: Jenny Matthau (by his 1st wife)

Father: Milton Matthow (a peddler/electrician/process server)
Mother: Rose (Berolsky) Matthow (a seamstress)

Burial site: Westwood Memorial Park (a.k.a. Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery), Westwood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Error corrections or clarifications

* Contrary to countless reports, he was not born "Walter Matuchanskayasky", "Walter Matuschanskayasky", "Walter Foghorn Matthau", nor "Walter Matasschanskayasky" or any other variation of those names. Nearly every obituary misreported his real name, as do many websites and reference books. Family members have repeatedly addressed this issue, but this rumor has taken on a life of its own. They have verified that Walter John Matthow was his actual name at birth. Records from his childhood confirm Walter John Matthow was indeed his true name.
Walter Matuschanskayasky was a name Walter himself concocted to appear in the credits for a brief cameo he made in Charlton Heston's 1974 disaster film, Earthquake. That is the origin of the erroneous birth name.

The above name is certainly not the only erroneous biographical information about Walter. During his lengthy career, Matthau gave innumerable interviews, many of which consisted of the same questions, over and over again. To amuse himself, he began making up outlandish stories about his life. Some journalists would recognize he was kidding and others would not. Some of those silly stories include one about his father being a jewel thief and Russian spy. How about the tale that he was in the line of succession to the throne of Great Britain. He had a good ol' time telling tall-tales about himself, unfortunately some reporters took his whimsical fiction seriously and reported them as fact.

** Source: Death certificate and confirmed by St. John's Hospital and Health Center.

All of the following publications, in some past editions, have offered erroneous biographical data on Walter Matthau.

Daily Celebrity Almanac by Bob Barry

Random House Famous Name Finder by Coral Amende

John Willis Screen World

Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia

People Entertainment Almanac

Reader's Digest Almanac and Yearbook

Time/Information Please Almanac

The Wordsworth Book of Days

World Almanac and Book of Facts

The World Almanac Who's Who of Film

It is not our intent to denigrate these fine publications, but merely to point out the above inaccuracy to prevent further dissemination of the erroneous data.

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