Saturday 20 August 2011

JACK LEMMON and WALTER MATTHAU - Grumpy, Odd, and Loved.

They were a gift. A present from the Gods; the likes of which we'll never see again. If they made a new film together now I would literally sprint to the cinema to see it. In fact, I'd find out where they're shooting the movie and I'd demand a job. Sure, I'd love to direct them, but I'd be happy to get the coffee, shine their shoes, whatever it takes.

Just to be near them. They make my heart and soul fly and soar --- I just wish I could be there, just for a moment. Don't you think that would be magnificent?

I watched 'Out To Sea' tonight -- it's a film that, with any other actors, would be average at best. But with Jack and Walter, every moment is golden. On their own, they're riveting. Together, they transcend. Watching them together is pure joy -- every single frame.

We are lucky that they did so much work together. Especially in the final years of their careers and lives --- 'Out To Sea', 'Grumpy Old Men', 'Grumpier Old Men', 'The Odd Couple 2' - these films weren't masterpieces in any cinematic sense. The plots aren't groundbreaking. Each film is about two men at war with each other-- usually because of personality clashes, and women.

It never seems right that people die, does it? That they just vanish. With film stars, we're lucky. Because they don't have to be alive to make us laugh, cry and smile. That's the thing when you watch these guys -- they're so real and present, but at the same time you feel that sad pang because you know we don't have them anymore.

By the end, the Lemmon/Matthau thing could easily have been a predictable shtick, but somehow they kept the heart. How? Because that's all they had: HEART. Two beautiful souls that fate decided should get into the the business of acting, and somehow they found their way to each other. The fortune cookie that we were dealt was a fabulous one, and this odd couple went on to entertain us for many years.

I crave videos like this. They're aging and they're going deaf and they're forgetting their lines -- but they're amazing. Hilariously funny and more alive than I think I've ever been.

Their definitive collaboration is seen as 'The Odd Couple' - and I totally respect that, it's one of the all-time great comedies. But for me, I can't get enough of them in the comedies they did together towards the end. They were carefree and fun. They brought a warmth, wisdom and ease to what they did which is rare to see in film. The film's glide along effortlessly because you are in the presence of two truly fantastic people.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are, without question, my favourite on screen duo.

Care to share?


  1. Kid,

    A wonderful write-up about a pair I also consider one of the greatest on-screen duos in cinema history! I cannot stop watching the "GRUMPY" films and they never disappoint - I always laugh out loud!

    I adore Jack Lemmon. I believe him to be one of the greatest actors who ever lived. I respect Walter Matthau, never having seen a film of his that I
    didn't enjoy or his performance in it. Their collaboration, as you so aptly note, was smooth and natural and always hillarious! I'd even dare to say, despite a film's script being the most important element, it is not so with these two - the ONLY exception I can think of. They simply could play off each other and/or say lines in a way that WHAT they said paled in comparison to their genius delivery and play off each other.

    I can go on and on. Enjoyed reading this wondereful tribute to a much-deserved titan screen duo! What gifts they left us!!


  2. Somehow, I think I've only seen the first Grumpy film. I've seen more Matthau in other projects. I really don't know who my favorite on-screen duo is but there have been several that I think worked great together.

    Sam Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, two gangsters who discuss everything from massages to miracles, maybe that is my favorite. It was the first Tarantino film I saw and also made me realize how important dialogue can be in a film.

    Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier in "Up All Night" and "Let's Do It Again" are another favorite of mine. I saw these films in the 80s on cable tv with my uncle and loved them. Worth looking up for good 70s films.

    Cosby and Poitier were great at getting caught up in weird situations with equally strange characters.

  3. Oh, man, I'm right there with you. Matthau & Lemmon were masters. I grew up watching their films, but The Odd Couple is my fave, probably my favorite film of all time, in fact. It's never not funny, and there's so much you can learn about comedy, acting and timing. That duo is part of who I am as a filmmaker. I carry them with me and draw inspiration from their genius. Thanks for this post!

  4. Oh no, The Fortune Cookie was even better than The Odd Couple.

  5. I am in total agreement. I watch their movies over and over. Winter is coming so it must be time for my wife and I to watch Grumpy Old Men again. Tonight we watched one of Jack Lemmon's first films, It Should Happen To You. Then we began Odd Couple.