Hundreds Gather For Mattau Tribute

Monday, August 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Five hundred Hollywood insiders packed the Directors Guild theater for a memorial to Walter Matthau that turned out to be as much a laugh-fest as a Friars Club roast.

The tone Sunday was set by an invitation that specified ``cheerful attire'' and, except for some tears from Matthau's longtime buddy Jack Lemmon, it captured the comedy of Matthau on the screen and off.

Lemmon, whose collaboration with Matthau began with ``The Fortune Cookie,'' told of taking his friend to a preview of a film in which Lemmon starred.

``The exodus of the public began after the first reel,'' Lemmon recalled, ``and by the end of this movie there were two rows of people left — probably from the studio. I asked, 'Walter what do you think of the picture?' He said, 'Get out of it!'''

Lemmon concluded tearfully: ``He was my best friend. One thing is a constant, when I was with Walter in a film or personally, it was always magic time.''

Among the mourners were Diane Keaton, Neil Simon, Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Gregory Peck, Angie Dickinson, Carl Reiner and producers Walter Mirisch and Howard W. Koch.

Matthau, who died of heart failure July 1 at age 79, won a supporting actor Academy Award for ``The Fortune Cookie,'' and cemented his stardom as Oscar Madison in ``The Odd Couple.''