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)
Spouse: Grace Geraldine Johnson (m. 1948 - 1958) (divorced)
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,
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
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.
If you find the above data useful, please
link to this page from your webpage, blog or
website. You can also help support
Internet Accuracy Project's work by contributing
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