1. Walter Matthau was an American actor best known for his role as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple and his frequent collaborations with Odd Couple co-star Jack Lemmon.
2. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the 1966 Billy Wilder film The Fortune Cookie.
3. Besides the Oscar, he was the winner of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony awards.
4. As a young boy, Matthow attended a Jewish non-profit sleepaway camp, Tranquillity Camp, where he first began acting in the shows the camp would stage on Saturday nights.
5. During World War II, Matthau served in the U.S. Army Air Forces with the Eighth Air Force in Britain as a B-24 Liberator radioman-gunner, in the same 453rd Bombardment Group as James Stewart.
6. He was based at RAF Old Buckenham, Norfolk during this time.
7. He reached the rank of staff sergeant and became interested in acting.
8. He took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School with German director Erwin Piscator.
9. He often joked that his best early review came in a play where he posed as a derelict.
10. One reviewer said, “The others just looked like actors in make-up, Walter Matthau really looks like a skid row bum!”
11. Matthau was a respected stage actor for years in such fare as Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and A Shot in the Dark.
12. He won the 1962 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a play.
13. Matthau appeared in the pilot of Mister Peepers with Wally Cox.
14. He made his motion picture debut as a whip-wielding bad guy in The Kentuckian opposite Burt Lancaster.
15. Around the same time, he made Ride a Crooked Trail with Audie Murphy, and Onionhead starring Andy Griffith; the latter was a flop.
16. Matthau had a featured role opposite Griffith in the well received drama A Face in the Crowd , directed by Elia Kazan.
17. Matthau also directed a low-budget movie called The Gangster Story , which starred Kirk Douglas.
18. Appearances on television were common too, including two on Naked City, as well as an episode of The Eleventh Hour .
19. He appeared eight times between 1962 and 1964 on The DuPont Show of the Week and as Franklin Gaer in an episode of Dr. Kildare .
20. Additionally he featured in the syndicated crime drama Tallahassee 7000, as a Florida-based state police investigator .
21. He was cast in a number of stark dramas, such as Fail Safe , in which he portrayed Pentagon adviser Dr. Groeteschele, who urges an all-out nuclear attack on the Soviet Union in response to an accidental transmission of an attack signal to U.S. Air Force bombers.
22. Neil Simon cast him in the play The Odd Couple in 1965, with Matthau playing slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison, opposite Art Carney as Felix Unger. Matthau later reprised the role in the film version, with Jack Lemmon as Felix Ungar.