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The BBC's David Willis
"He showed an early interest in the theatre"
 real 28k

Saturday, 1 July, 2000, 20:00 GMT 21:00 UK
Actor Walter Matthau dies
Matthau
Matthau: One of America's best-loved comic actors
The Oscar-winning American actor, Walter Matthau, has died of a heart attack aged 79.

He was pronounced dead on Saturday morning shortly after being brought into St John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, said a hospital spokesman.

Matthau's films
The Fortune Cookie
The Odd Couple
Grumpy Old Men
Charade
Kotch
The Front Page
The Sunshine Boys
Hanging Up
Over a carreer that spanned more than 40 years, Matthau, who became a Hollywood legend, appeared in more than 50 films.

He was a popular character actor, and went from playing villains to become the modern king of the entertainment world's grumpy but lovable slobs.

The duet

He is best known for his decades-long screen partnership with Jack Lemmon. It was their first duet in a 1966 film the Fortune Cookie that earned Matthau stardom.

Matthau would later say of Lemmon: "When were working we always seemed to understand what we're thinking about."

With Lemmon in
Oscar for The Fortune Cookie
Lemmon, himself a famous comedian, praised the funny side of Matthau.

"The biggest problem, and the only problem, I have working with Walter, who is a great actor, is that I have a great deal of difficulty not laughing."

Matthau's most recent comedy, Hanging Up, was released only this year, starring Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow.

Matthau's first big Broadway performance was in 1948, but it was his 1965 appearance in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple that launched him into stardom.

The film version of the show released in 1968 became a classic.


The biggest problem, and the only problem, I have working with Walter, who is a great actor, is that I have a great deal of difficulty not laughing

Jack Lemmon
Matthau won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for Billy Wilder's 1966 comedy The Fortune Cookie.

In May 1993 he was honoured with a Lifetime's Achievement Award by America's National Association of Theatre Owners.

Health setbacks

The actor survived several serious health setbacks during his career. While making The Fortune Cookie in 1966, he suffered a bad heart attack.

His doctor attributed it to smoking three packs a day and constant worry about gambling and told him to give up both. Matthau stopped smoking.


When were working we always seemed to understand what we're thinking about

Walter Matthau
In 1976, he underwent heart bypass surgery. After working in freezing weather for Grumpy Old Men in 1993, he was hospitalised for double pneumonia.

In December 1995, he had a colon tumor removed. It tested benign.

He was also hospitalised in May 1999 for more than two months after another bout with pneumonia.

When Matthau was brought into St John's Health Center hospital on Saturday morning, he was in "full cardiac arrest" and was pronounced dead at 0142 am PDT (0842 am GMT).

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See also:

01 Jul 00 | Americas
Walter Matthau: Lovable slouch
01 Jul 00 | Americas
Walter Matthau: A life in pictures
01 Jul 00 | Americas
The films of Walter Matthau
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