"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: walter matthau

Matthau’s Love for the Long Shot

taking_of_pelham_123_1

Dig this gem from Brad Darrach, People magazine, 1974:

“I thoroughly disapprove of gambling,” actor Walter Matthau explains primly as he whooshes toward Hollywood Park racetrack in his bronze Mercedes at 80 mph. “But I’m too rich and it’s good for me to lose.” He chuckles wickedly, rolling his eyes like dice. “Actually, I wallow in the pain of it all. It’s like an expensive psychoanalysis.”

“Big Walts,” as he is known, is Hollywood’s most flamboyant loser—one way or another he drops about $75,000 a year. “He will bet on anything,” says a Walter-watcher. “Sunspot cycles, mouse races, toenail-growing contests.” But the nags get most of his action, and on rough days L.A. horse-players see some Oscar-worthy Matthau performances.

“There he is!” the gateman cheers when Matthau arrives, and the actor does a little ramble through the turnstile. Once upstairs at the Turf Club dining level, Matthau airily dopes the daily double, then goes off to plunge $200 on Perla in the first race (“a shoo-in”) and War Souvenir in the second. A waitress arrives at the table Matthau is sharing with the track physician, Robert Kerlan. Matthau inquires about the chow mein. “Any roaches in it, Velma? Don’t like roaches. Too many calories.”

Cee’s Flair wins the first race. Matthau groans and claws his dewlaps. “Jerk! Why do you come here?” he asks himself. “Wasn’t one coronary enough?” (Matthau is referring to his 1966 heart attack.) Lunch arrives. Matthau stares at it. “I don’t know what it is, but I’d rather eat it than step in it.” Leaning close to a table mate, he mutters earnestly, “Do you think [film critic] Pauline Kael has put a curse on me?” After he bets War Souvenir again, Swordville wins a 30-to-1 shot. As the horses parade before the third race, Matthau whips out his field glasses. “Look for one with a bowed neck!” he whispers fiercely. “A horse with a bowed neck is a horse with confidence!” Dropping his glasses, he leers. “Though what I really like is a horse with a shapely ass.”

You’re welcome.

On the Slant

A few weeks ago I had a phone conversation with Red Smith’s biographer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Ira Berkow. He told me:

Walter Matthau once told me that his idea of good writing is that you have to come in on a slant. You want the reader to pause for a moment before it hits them. It’s telling a good joke.

I’ll give you an example. Matthau’s wife was good friends with Oona O’Neill who was Charlie Chaplin’s wife. When Chaplin finally came back to America Mathau and his wife gave them at a party at Matthau’s Palisades house in New Jersey. Matthau went out onto the lawn with Chaplin and they overlooked the Atlantic Ocean which was dotted with sail boats. Chaplin looked out over the ocean from Matthau’s backyard and said, “Must have cost you a fortune.”

Matthau told his wife the line and weeks later they’re driving on a hill near their home and they see the same scene–gorgeous view of the ocean. His wife said something like, “After you bought all those boats it must have cost you a lot of money.” And Matthau said to her, “That’s not good writing. You have to come in on the slant.”

Red did that kind of thing.

Million Dollar Movie

Pass the mustard. This one is too much fun.

I once worked with a post-production coordinator whose husband did the sound for this movie. They didn’t use stock sound effects libraries back then. The screech of the train at the end came from the shower curtain dragged closed in the sound man’s bathroom. Also, you know the woman hostage on the train with the two kids? Her daughter babysat for my twin sister and me when we lived at 875 West End Avenue.

[Photo Credi: The Lively Morgue]

All is Not Lost

Have a laugh…on the house.

Million Dollar Movie

“Hopscotch” is an appealing but lousy movie. It looks like pea soup, the script is dull, and the acting is forgettable (I’m talking to you, Ned Beatty). But I’m a sucker for Matthau and Glenda Jackson so I sat through the whole thing, curled up on the couch with my wife over the weekend. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter that a movie is bad. If you are cozy with the Mrs watching Matthau humming Mozart, sipping beers, being Matthau, things could be a lot worse.

Friday Night Flix

Some You Tube fun on a cold winter night:

My favorite Scorsese flix (his ma makes the sauce):

Love this movie:

Bouton as Terry Lennox…

Mr. Barbar.

Million Dollar Movie

A New York City Classic:

Million Dollar Movie

My brother, sister and I had bedtime when we were kids, through middle-school if I remember correctly. It got pushed later and later as we got older of course, but my mom was not into letting us stay up late during a school night to watch TV. So we’d start watching a movie and then have to go to bed halfway through. Mom would tuck us in, kiss us goodnight, and then go back to the living room of our small two-bedroom apartment and watch the rest of it.

She filled us in the next morning over breakfast, the story slowly coming back to her as she sipped her coffee, spread a triangle of Laughing Cow on a burnt piece of toast, her face still creased from the sheets, her voice still thick with sleep. Mom came to this country in 1967 from Belgium but never completely lost her French accent. When excited, her voice would get dramatically high, but not in the morning. It wasn’t sing-songy but full of melody, inflection and animation (nothing frustrated her more than watching a woman getting chased by the bad guys in a movie…”Kick him in the balls, kick him in the balls!” she’d say. “I don’t understand why they don’t just kick them in the balls.”)

In re-telling the movie, Ma never cut to the chase. She traced her way back into the story and then proceeded to give us a blow-by-blow account in painstaking detail. Sometimes she’d pause, not remembering the sequence of events, and spend five minutes sorting out what happened. Aloud. I would hang on her words, annoyed by her deliberate pace, not for one minute comprehending the way the female mind worked. I just wanted the payoff. What happened? The important stuff, not details of the scenery and costumes.

One movie that she told us about one morning was Cactus Flower, a movie I’ve never watched, but for a minute or two here or there, since. I like it better in my memory, listening to Mom, who loved Goldie Hawn and Walter Matthau, telling us what went down.

There was something about Goldie Hawn that she could relate to–they both had the ability to be light and fun, and were not afraid to laugh at themselves. They were both adorable when they were young but their looks changed as they got older and their voices got huskier. They were tested by life and proved not to be pushovers. Still, there was something, if not innocent, then refreshing and bubbly about both of them that links them together in my memory. I image that the Goldie Hawn of Cactus Flower brought my mother back to a time that I was too young to remember, when mom was young and new to this country. Before she had kids and her marriage got dark and ugly.

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver