Walter Matthau Movies: 'The Fortune Cookie' & 'Kotch'

by Andre Soares

Alida Valli, Joseph Cotten in The Third ManSaturday, June 14, highlights on Turner Classic Movies include The Third Man and a series of Walter Matthau movies:

Many consider The Third Man (left) Carol Reed's best film. Some even claim it's so good that Reed couldn't have directed it, detecting Orson Welles' touch of genius throughout the mystery thriller. That said, those who worked with Reed on the film insist(ed) that it's Reed's all the way. I'm not a big fan of The Third Man, but that last short featuring Alida Valli and Joseph Cotten outside a cemetery is as masterful as any ever put on film. Martin Scorsese must have liked it, too, as he imitated it (quite poorly) in The Departed.

Along with The Adventures of Robin Hood, King Solomon's Mines is probably my favorite adventure film. While The Lord of the Rings films left me underwhelmed (the last two installments of the trilogy bored me to tears), this 1950 MGM spectacle directed by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton hits all the right notes to invoke mystery, romance, and excitement. Amidst wild animals and tall Masai, the ladylike Deborah Kerr very properly pines for (i.e., lusts after) sweaty Stewart Granger. The handsome and underrated Richard Carlson co-stars in what was the first Hollywood production filmed in Africa since MGM's Trader Horn twenty years earlier. (More on King Solomon's Mines here.)

Some think the political drama A Face in the Crowd, starring Patricia Neal and Andy Griffith, is Elia Kazan's best film, while Kotch earned star Walter Matthau a best actor Academy Award nomination. Matthau, the star of the evening, won a best supporting actor Oscar for his crooked lawyer in The Fortune Cookie, one of Billy Wilder's lesser comedies.

Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website:

2:30am [Short] Festival of Shorts #24 (2000)
TCM promotes two MGM comedy shorts produced by Peter Smith: Menu (1933) and Penny Wisdom (1937).
C-22 min.

3:00am Fire Down Below (1957)
Partners in a tramp steamer both fall for a mysterious lady passenger.
Cast: Rita Hayworth, Robert Mitchum, Jack Lemmon. Dir.: Robert Parrish. Color. 115 mins. Letterbox.

5:00am [Suspense/Mystery] Third Man, The (1949)
A man's investigation of a friend's death uncovers corruption in post-World War II Vienna.
Cast: Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli. Dir.: Carol Reed. Black and white. 104 min.

7:00am Block-Heads (1938)
Chaos erupts when a man tries to help an old war buddy.
Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Minna Gombell. Dir.: John G. Blystone. Black and white. 57 min.

8:00am Swiss Miss (1938)
When they're swindled, two salesmen have to work off their debts in a Swiss hotel.
Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy Walter Woolf King. Dir.: John G. Blystone. Black and white. 65 min.

9:15am [Western] Vengeance Valley (1951)
An honest rancher tries to block his evil brother's plots while keeping them from their father.
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Robert Walker, Joanne Dru. Dir.: Richard Thorpe. Color. 83 min.

10:45am King Solomon's Mines (1950)
A spirited widow hires a daredevil jungle scout to find a lost treasure in diamonds.
Cast: Deborah Kerr, Stewart Granger, Richard Carlson. Dir.: Compton Bennett, Andrew Marton. Color. 103 min.

12:30pm Wind And The Lion, The (1975)
An Arab chief triggers an international incident when he kidnaps an American widow and her children.
Cast: Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith. Dir.: John Milius. Color. 119 mins. Letterbox.

2:45pm [Suspense/Mystery] Topkapi (1964)
An international band of thieves plots to steal a priceless treasure from a heavily guarded museum.
Cast: Melina Mercouri, Maximilian Schell, Peter Ustinov. Dir.: Jules Dassin. Color. 119 mins. Letterbox.

5:00pm Face In The Crowd, A (1957)
A female television executive turns a folk-singing drifter into a powerful media star.
Cast: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau. Dir.: Elia Kazan. Black and white. 126 mins. Letterbox.

7:15pm Fortune Cookie, The (1966)
A crooked lawyer trumps up an insurance case for a cameraman injured at a pro football game.
Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Cliff Osmond. Dir.: Billy Wilder. Black and white. 126 mins. Letterbox.

9:30pm Kotch (1971)
Alienated from his son's family, an elderly man becomes infatuated with a pregnant teen.
Cast: Walter Matthau, Deborah Winters, Felicia Farr. Dir.: Jack Lemmon. Color. 118 mins. Letterbox.

11:45pm Plaza Suite (1971)
A New York hotel room is the setting for three stories of romantic squabbles.
Cast: Walter Matthau, Maureen Stapleton, Lee Grant. Dir.: Arthur Hiller. Color. 114 mins. Letterbox.

1:45am Gangster Story (1959)
An ambitious gangster and his chief rival team for a daring heist.
Cast: Walter Matthau Bruce McFarlane, Carol Grace. Dir.: Walter Matthau. Black and white. 68 min.

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