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Monday, 21 August, 2000, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Walter Matthau remembered
Walter Matthau
Matthau died in Santa Monica, California, after heart failure
Actor Walter Matthau was remembered in a service attended by family members and movie industry friends on Sunday.

The Directors Guild theatre on Sunset Boulevard paid host to a memorial capturing the late actor's on-screen and off-screen comic talents.

Matthau's longtime friend and film co-star Jack Lemmon led the tributes.

"He was my best friend. I love him, I always will. And I will miss him. One thing is a constant, when I was with Walter in a film or personally, it was always magic time," he said.

He wasn't a comic. He was first and foremost an actor.

Neil Simon
Among the mourners were actors Gregory Peck, Diane Keaton, Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Daryl Hannah, Carl Reiner, and playwright Neil Simon.

'Ironic dignity'

Matthau, who died of heart failure in July at the age of 79, won a supporting actor Oscar in 1966 for The Fortune Cookie, one of many classic Billy Wilder films he starred in.

Jack Lemmon
Jack Lemmon's collaboration with Matthau began with The Fortune Cookie, in 1966
Diane Keaton, who directed and co-starred with Matthau in his last movie, Hanging Up, said he possessed "an ironic dignity".

"His face was the best face I've ever laid eyes on, not handsome but magnificent," she said.

Neil Simon, who wrote The Odd Couple with Matthau in mind for the part of cranky, slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison, said Matthau was great because he "acted with every organ in his body".

"He was the easiest person for me to write for because even when I wasn't funny, he was. He was extraordinarily funny, but he wasn't a comic. He was first and foremost an actor," he said.


The service - for which the actor's son, film producer Charlie Matthau, was host - also included a montage of the star's work.

Matthau's son, film producer Charlie Matthau, and widow, Carol Marcus
Matthau's son, film producer Charlie Matthau, and widow, Carol Marcus attended
Veteran actress Lauren Bacall read a tribute from Matthau's widow, Carol Marcus, saying, "We had lots of fights and perfect love."

Lemmon remembered how Matthau had exercised his wit even after an accident on the set of their 1981 movie Buddy, Buddy.

He recalled that Matthau was splayed on the floor with a broken collarbone, moaning over and over, "I'm going to die".

Not knowing what else to do, Lemmon took off his jacket and carefully slipped it under his friend's head, asking, "Are you comfortable?"

To which the reply came: "I make a living."

"Even though he thought he was dying, he wasn't going to lose that straight line," he said.

Talk show host Larry King, actress Angie Dickinson, Matthau's rabbi, Jerry Cutler, producers Walter Mirisch and Howard W Koch, and a host of other Hollywood bigwigs also attended the service.

See also:

04 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Matthau buried in private service
01 Jul 00 | Americas
Actor Walter Matthau dies
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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