Oscar Impact: Typecasting, Walter Matthau from Supporting to Lead Actor

Walter Matthau

In recent years, there have been changes in the casting practices in Hollywood: lead actors had to be neither conventionally attractive nor romantic in order to be cast in lead or starring roles.

Just look as Walter Matthau’s career. In the 1950s and early 1960s, typically cast in villainous roles (Charade), Matthau seemed destined to stay in the supporting league.

But he rose to sudden stardom in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, in a role that was specifically written for him. Matthau went on to star in a succession of comedies, earning the Best supporting Actor Oscar for Billy Wilder’s 1966 The Fortune Cookie, opposite Jack Lemmon; some critics thought he need to be nominated for the Best Actor.

In the 1970s, he moved to the major league, scoring two Best Actor nominations, for Kotch and The Sunshine Boys, respectively.

Interestingly, the same slouching posture, awkward walk, and non-handsome face, which had kept Matthau from becoming a leading man in the 1950s and 1960s, were used–and perceived by the public–to different effect in the 1970s.

For the first time in his career, Matthau was asked play romantic roles, beginning with House Calls opposite Glenda Jackson.

Matthau played several roles with the esteemed, two-time Oscar winner actress.