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American Legends: the Life of Walter Matthau

*Includes pictures
*Includes Matthau's own quotes about his life and career
*Includes a bibliography for further reading

"Every actor looks all his life for a part that will combine his talents with his personality...'The Odd Couple' was mine. That was the plutonium I needed. It all started happening after that." - Walter Matthau

A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.

Walter Matthau is probably best-remembered for his films with Jack Lemmon, but he was clearly an established actor in Hollywood by the time they appeared in their first film together. Before his movies with Lemmon, Matthau most often played shady criminals in dramatic films, and his character in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957) offers one of the best examples. Matthau's major breakthrough did not occur until 1965, when he starred in the stage production of The Odd Couple, which was later adapted into the film that might be the duo's best known movie together. For Matthau, teaming up with Lemmon did not elevate him to stardom, but his films with Matthau are generally more traditional comedies and not necessarily romantic comedies.

In several of their movies, viewers witness all of the core elements of the Lemmon-Matthau dynamic. Lemmon plays the straight man to Matthau's shadier, conniving character, and a sharp contrast exists between the two: Lemmon is relatively short and conventionally handsome, while Matthau is far taller and appears far more clownish, and the contrast would grow starker as they aged and Matthau became rather stocky. Even though Lemmon is invariably tempted by Matthau's schemes, he denounces them at the conclusion but doesn't reject or condemn Matthau as a person. A romantic plot often develops between leading ladies and the two actors, but the chief relationship is usually between Lemmon and Matthau, whose comedic value as a team is greater than the sum of its parts.

It is all the more noteworthy that while Lemmon and Matthau are often mentioned in the pantheon of legendary male comedy teams, they were not natural comics in the manner of Laurel and Hardy or Abbot and Costello. Instead, they became great comics when acting alongside their comic foil, and while it is Matthau who took primacy in The Fortune Cookie (he did win an Academy Award, after all), in The Odd Couple, Saul Austerlitz argues that the opposite occurs in the subsequent movie: "Matthau has the showier role as gruff, sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison, but Lemmon steals the show as the prim...Felix Unger."

In an act of homage toward their legendary partnership, Lemmon was buried near Matthau, who died about a year before Lemmon, and upon Matthau's death, Lemmon stated, "I have lost someone I loved as a brother, as a closest friend, and a remarkable human being. We have also lost one of the best damn actors we'll ever see." Lemmon may have put it even more aptly when he said, "Death ends a life, not a relationship."

American Legends: The Life of Walter Matthau explores the life and career of one of America's favorite grumpy old men. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about Matthau like never before, in no time at all.

RRP $24.99
or 4 payments of $6.25 with Learn more
Booklovers earn $1.20 in rewards when purchasing this title
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PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Title: American Legends: the Life of Walter Matthau
  • Author: Charles River Charles River Editors
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • ISBN: 9781500548629
  • Length: 0.1 inch
  • Width: 6.0 inch
  • Languages: English
  • Format: PaperBack
  • Category: Entertainment
  • Publication Date: 21/07/2014
  • Pages: 40
  • Height: 9.0 inch

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