Cover image for Matthau : a life
Matthau : a life
Edelman, Rob.
Personal Author:
First Taylor Trade Pub. edition.
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Taylor Trade Pub. : Distributed by National Book Network, 2002.
Physical Description:
xi, 338 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN2287.M543 E33 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PN2287.M543 E33 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Funny yet down-to-earth, honest yet full of exaggeration, actor Walter Matthau (1920-2000) will always occupy a place in America's heart as one of the great comic talents of his generation. Born Walter Matuschanskayasky into Jewish tenements on New York's Lower East Side, he was a child actor in New York Yiddish theater, and later a World War II Air Force radioman-gunner. He paid dues for ten years on Broadway, in summer stock, and on television before landing his film debut The Kentuckian in 1955. By the time of his 1968 casting as cantankerous but lovable slob Oscar Madison in the film version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, Matthau had won major Hollywood stardom. Based on dozens of interviews and extensive research, this book covers the breadth of his often-complicated personal life and multi-faceted career, including his unforgettable performances in such films as The Fortune Cookie, A Guide for the Married Man, Plaza Suite, Charley Varrick, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The Sunshine Boys, The Bad News Bears, California Suite, and Grumpy Old Men.

Author Notes

Rob Edelman and , authors of Meet the Mertzes, Angela Lansbury: A Life on Stage and Screen, and The John Travolta Scrapbook, are both lecturers in film history at the State University of New York-Albany. They live in Amsterdam, New York.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

During the 1965 filming of Mirage, director Edward Dmytryk told Walter Matthau (1920-2000), "you're going to become the greatest character actor in the business." The actor rejected that assessment, insisting he would become a leading man. Film professors Edelman and Kupferberg (coauthors of Angela Lansbury) offer an engaging chronicle of an actor who lacked leading man looks, whose own mother wanted him to have his nose fixed and who achieved stardom through sheer individuality and talent. Matthau grew up on Manhattan's Lower East Side and recalled his childhood as "a dreadful, horrible, stinking nightmare." His father deserted the family and his mother couldn't show affection, yet young Walter discovered a love of acting that led him to Broadway. The authors meticulously relate the story of his acting career, but more absorbing is their retelling of Matthau's obsessive gambling, which he describes as "worse than alcoholism... worse than cancer." Matthau never overcame his addiction, frequently working just to pay off debts. The enduring partnership between Matthau and Jack Lemmon supplies an opportunity for an in-depth portrait of both men, and Matthau's hatred of Hello, Dolly co-star Barbra Streisand, though familiar, gives the book an emotional bite. All the major points of Matthau's life are covered: winning an Oscar for The Fortune Cookie; his happy second marriage and intense adoration for his son, Charlie; his heavy smoking, multiple heart attacks and final bout with liver cancer. Although the writing style is undramatic and is often a low-key recitation of names, dates and events, there's enough fascinating new material to attract Matthau's many fans. Photos. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved