A Biography Of A Legend
Walter Matthau


Walter Matthau Was A Happy Grumpy
Character Of Films Loved By All
                  He was born Walter Matuchanskavasky on October
                   1, 1920, in New York, the son of poor
                   Russian-Jewish immigrants. After a series of
                   journeyman jobs and a stint as a soldier in World
                   War II, Matthau took some acting lessons and, at the
                   age of 28, landed the role of understudy to Rex
                   Harrison's aged British bishop in the Broadway
                   drama Anne of the Thousand Days. 

                   His first major Broadway success, however, came
                   with A Shot in the Dark. Hollywood soon put his
                   lanky, 6-foot-3 frame to use as a heavy in such films
                   as The Kentuckian, with Burt Lancaster, and King
                   Creole, with Elvis, before he hit his comic stride in
                   The Fortune Cookie. 

                   Matthau married his first wife, Grace Geraldine
                   Johnson, in 1948. They divorced 10 years later after
                   having two children, David and Jenny. He married
                   Carol Marcus in 1959, and their only child, son
                   Charles, became a filmmaker. 

                   Ill health plagued Matthau from the beginning of his
                   career. He suffered a major heart attack in 1966
                   (doctors blamed his three-pack-a-day smoking habit
                   and stress from gambling--he gave up the smoking),
                   underwent heart bypass surgery in 1976, suffered
                   double pneumonia in 1993 (after shooting Grumpy
                   Old Men during the frigid Minnesota winter), had a
                   benign colon tumor removed in 1995 and was
                   hospitalized again for pneumonia in May 1999. 

                   In typical form, Matthau blamed his maladies on his
                   bad eating habits. "If you eat only celery and lettuce,
                   you won't get sick...I like celery and lettuce, but I like
                   it with pickles, relish, corned beef, potatoes, peas.
                   And I like Eskimo Pies."