Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau Pencil Portrait
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The quality of the prints are at a much higher level compared to the image shown on the left.


A3 Pencil Print-Price £45.00-Purchase

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Analysing the cultural differences between English and American humour has perplexed film commentators for years. Whilst the contrast in the spelling of the word (humour or humor) is blindingly obvious, the subleties of its application are less apparent.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Americans don’t fully appreciate irony and that, whilst applied liberally all over British film productions, is more sparingly utilised by our brethren across the big pond.

All well and good then, and a useful starting point to my dissertation except that, in the case of acting genii like Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, their comedic sense of timing transcended all cultural and language barriers. You\‘ve no sooner established some ground rules and this pair rips up the first page. I’ve been abroad and witnessed their work dubbed in Spanish, French. Italian and German. Whatever the dialect, they’re still funny. Strewth, they could even have filmed a skit arguing the merits of genii and geniuses as the plural of genius and I would have paid a ticket to see them. Versatility as a word, could not do sufficient justice to their immense acting technique.

Recommended listening

Desert Island Discs (8/10/89)


Lemmon’s appearance on the show; his one luxury item quite understandably, a piano.

Recommended viewing

The Fortune Cookie (1966)

Matthau emerges from ten years of bit part obscurity to upstage Lemmon’s star billing as the gloriously underhanded lawyer “Whiplash” Willie Gingrich. When he observes his brother in law , CBS cameraman Harry Hinkle (Lemmon) being ostensibly injured whilst accidentally bulldozed by football player Luther “Boom Boom” Jackson (Ron Rich) during a Cleveland Browns game, Willie foresees an insurance-settlement bonanza, convincing Harry to feign incapacity. Offering a sweetener in the form of Harry’s covetous ex-wife Sandy (Judi West), who feigns a rekindled romance with Harry, Matthau oozes smarm and guile in equal measure whilst Lemmon battles his escalating conscience in the face of Boom Boom’s solicitous behavior, a man so devastated at his involvement in the accident, that he selflessly waits hand and foot on our ‘resident cripple’.

Meanwhile, dishevelled private eye Purkey (Cliff Osmond) keeps Harry under constant surveillance, hoping to catch him moving around so the insurance company can waive the claim. Director Billy Wilder and usual co-writer I.A.L. Diamond, offer their jaundiced take on the world and the people in it, whilst succumbing to sentimentality in the last reel.

Perpetuating the 30’s screwball comedy genre, the movie clocks in at over two hours but rarely flags. Matthau would bag a best supporting actor Oscar, due recompense for the massive heart attack he suffered during the shoot, whilst A list celebrity stardom would soon beckon. Already a huge star, Lemmon’s generosity would be rewarded with Matthau’s lifelong friendship. The pair never looked back………

The Odd Couple (1968)

Earthquake (1974) - Walter Matthau uncredited performance

Another entry in the American disaster genre, this all star actioner features the struggle for survival after a catastrophic earthquake destroys most of the city of Los Angeles, California. Directed by Mark Robson, it featured an innovative new audio Sensurround soundtrack and an all star cast.

It’s still an unqualified turkey, undermined by questionable special effects – cardboard buildings, miniatures, long distance painted backdrops, vapid characterisations etc – yet salvation can be found in the superlative cameo from Matthau as a drunk, which keeps us all in hysterics whilst others around him are losing their lives. Frankly, we’re unconcerned with the principal characters so long as Walter can still imbibe. The Hawaiian shirt and floppy panama hat merely adds to the overall comic effect, as Matthau applies his classic hang dog look amidst the collapsing rafters and overturned tables. ‘Say, who do you have to know to get a drink ‘round here?’ he asks in all seriousness.

Producer Jennings Lang offered the token appearance to Matthau, which he accepted, on condition that he be billed under his real name Walter Matuschanskyasky. Failing to appreciate the joke, the producer took him at his word as the final film credits testify.

The Apartment (1960) - Jack Lemmon

Save the Tiger (1973) - Jack Lemmon

The Days of wine & Roses (1962) Jack Lemmon

Kotch (1971) Walter Matthau (directed by Jack Lemmon)

Buddy Buddy (1981)

Grumpy Old Men (1995)

Charley Varrick (1973) Walter Matthau

The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974) Walter Matthau

The Bad News Bears (1975) Walter Matthau

The China Syndrome (1979) Jack Lemmon