The Fortune Cookie (1966)

125 mins | Comedy-drama | 19 October 1966

Director:

Billy Wilder

Producer:

Billy Wilder

Cinematographer:

Joseph La Shelle

Editor:

Daniel Mandell

Production Designer:

Robert Luthardt

Production Companies:

Phalanx Productions, Jalem Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The 1 Aug 1965 NYT reported that filmmaker Billy Wilder was in the process of completing a new screenplay, titled The Fortune Cookie, with his longtime writing partner, I. A. L. Diamond. Actor Walter Matthau, currently starring in The Odd Couple on Broadway, had already accepted a supporting role, based on Wilder’s story outline. Matthau’s contract with the play allowed him to take a four-month hiatus for movie work and return when filming was completed. His replacement was Jack Klugman, as noted in the 20 Nov 1965 LAT . Principal photography was scheduled to begin 31 Oct 1965 at Cleveland Stadium in Cleveland, OH. Less than two weeks later, the 12 Aug 1965 LAT announced Jack Lemmon as Matthau’s co-star. The cast also included African American musician Ron Rich and sportscaster Keith Jackson, both making their screen debuts, and actor Roger Torrey, who, according to the 9 Jan 1966 LAT, did his only scene in a hospital bed with the back of his head facing the camera. The 23 Dec 1965 and 27 Jan 1966 LAT listed Toni Schaber, Tol Avery, Oscar Beregi, and Larry Mann among the cast. The Fortune Cookie marked the first cinematic teaming of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
       Wilder told the 7 Nov 1965 NYT that he took a sabbatical in Europe after being “stunned” by the failure of his latest film, Kiss Me, Stupid (1964, see entry). He returned to Los Angeles, CA, six months later to find himself ostracized by the entertainment industry. ... More Less

The 1 Aug 1965 NYT reported that filmmaker Billy Wilder was in the process of completing a new screenplay, titled The Fortune Cookie, with his longtime writing partner, I. A. L. Diamond. Actor Walter Matthau, currently starring in The Odd Couple on Broadway, had already accepted a supporting role, based on Wilder’s story outline. Matthau’s contract with the play allowed him to take a four-month hiatus for movie work and return when filming was completed. His replacement was Jack Klugman, as noted in the 20 Nov 1965 LAT . Principal photography was scheduled to begin 31 Oct 1965 at Cleveland Stadium in Cleveland, OH. Less than two weeks later, the 12 Aug 1965 LAT announced Jack Lemmon as Matthau’s co-star. The cast also included African American musician Ron Rich and sportscaster Keith Jackson, both making their screen debuts, and actor Roger Torrey, who, according to the 9 Jan 1966 LAT, did his only scene in a hospital bed with the back of his head facing the camera. The 23 Dec 1965 and 27 Jan 1966 LAT listed Toni Schaber, Tol Avery, Oscar Beregi, and Larry Mann among the cast. The Fortune Cookie marked the first cinematic teaming of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
       Wilder told the 7 Nov 1965 NYT that he took a sabbatical in Europe after being “stunned” by the failure of his latest film, Kiss Me, Stupid (1964, see entry). He returned to Los Angeles, CA, six months later to find himself ostracized by the entertainment industry. Undaunted, Wilder resumed his collaboration with Diamond, and they developed a story about a man given the opportunity to win a fortune and the love of a woman if he is willing to compromise his integrity. Noting that filmmakers are perpetually haunted by their failures, Wilder expressed his desire for The Fortune Cookie to be a good picture.
       On 27 Oct 1965, Var reported that Lemmon would accompany Wilder and his production crew to Cleveland for two weeks of shooting. Locations included Cleveland Stadium, a hospital, and several nightclubs along the Lake Erie waterfront. Cleveland Browns president Art Modell agreed to let Wilder stage a football game for the film, with approximately 250 background actors recruited by team staff member Tony Lolli. According to the 17 Nov and 1 Dec 1965 Var, background actors included Modell and “several local newspaper columnists and sports writers.” The 12 Dec 1965 LAT noted that members of the Cleveland Browns appeared as “dress extras,” with placekicker Lou Groza in a featured part.
       The 12 Jan 1966 LAT and NYT reported that Walter Matthau was hospitalized in Los Angeles, CA, with a case of hepatitis. Billy Wilder anticipated a quick recovery and no delays in filming. Seven weeks later, the 5 Mar 1966 NYT described Matthau’s ailment as “a mild heart attack,” from which the actor was still recovering.
       The 30 Jan 1966 LAT revealed that Keeley Morse of Diagnostic Laboratories was hired as a medical technical advisor. When Morse attempted to demonstrate an assortment of diagnostic equipment to Wilder, the director reportedly stated, “Forget that authentic stuff. Just show us some nice flashing lights.”
       The 3 Jun 1966 LAT noted that production was “recently completed.” Later that month 22 Jun 1966, Var announced that The Fortune Cookie would be available for private exhibitor screenings at the end of Jul 1966. An Oct 1966 release was expected, according to the 10 Aug 1966 Var. Distributor United Artists (UA) declined an invitation to premiere the picture at the New York Film Festival in Sep 1966. Although no explanation was reported, the 19 Oct 1966 Var deduced that UA preferred not to risk the picture’s reputation on the “volatile” New York City audience, and instead accepted an invitation from the San Francisco International Film Festival for a late Oct 1966 screening.
       A news item in the 12 Oct 1966 Var stated that UA and The Mirisch Company held a party in Billy Wilder’s honor at the CBS building in New York City, while the filmmaker was in town on a promotional tour. The picture opened 19 Oct 1966 in New York City, and 9 Nov 1966 in Los Angeles. While reviews were not consistently enthusiastic, critics praised both Matthau’s and Lemmon’s performances. In his 23 Nov 1966 LAT column, film writer Charles Champlin suggested that Matthau’s characterization was inspired by comedians W. C. Fields and Groucho Marx. The actor claimed to have simply played his character as written, and commended Jack Lemmon for allowing him most of the film’s humorous content. Matthau intended to return the favor by having Lemmon as his co-star in the film version of The Odd Couple (1968, see entry).
       The Fortune Cookie was nominated for four Academy Awards in the following categories: Writing (Story and Screenplay—written directly for the screen); Cinematography (Black-and-White); Art Direction (Black-and-White); Actor in a Supporting Role. Walter Matthau won in the latter category, in addition to a Golden Laurel Award and a Kansas City Film Critics Circle (KCFCC) Award. The picture also received an award from the Southern California Motion Picture Council (SCMPC).
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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Times
12 Aug 1965
Section D, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
26 Aug 1965
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
20 Nov 1965
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
12 Dec 1965
Section H, p1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
23 Dec 1965
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jan 1966
Section M, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jan 1966
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jan 1966
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jan 1966
Section P, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
9 May 1966
Section C, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
3 Jun 1966
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
7 Oct 1966
Section D, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
3 Nov 1966
Section D, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
8 Oct 1966
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
9 Nov 1966
Section D, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
22 Nov 1966
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
23 Nov 1966
Section C, p. 7.
New York Times
1 Aug 1965
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
7 Nov 1965
Section X, p. 11.
New York Times
12 Jan 1966
p. 27.
New York Times
3 Mar 1966
p. 28.
New York Times
5 Mar 1966
p. 14.
New York Times
24 Aug 1966
p. 41.
New York Times
16 Oct 1966
p. 123.
New York Times
20 Nov 1966
p. 52.
Variety
27 Oct 1965
p. 5.
Variety
10 Nov 1965
p. 22.
Variety
17 Nov 1965
p. 69.
Variety
1 Dec 1965
p. 69.
Variety
22 Jun 1966
p. 5.
Variety
10 Aug 1966
p. 4.
Variety
12 Oct 1966
p. 24.
Variety
19 Oct 1966
p. 6, 7.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Scenic artist
COSTUMES
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Unit mgr
Scr supv
Casting
Dial coach
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 October 1966
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 19 October 1966
Los Angeles opening: 9 November 1966
Production Date:
31 October 1965--spring 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Phalanx Productions
Copyright Date:
19 October 1966
Copyright Number:
LP33763
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
125
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

During a Cleveland Browns--Minnesota Vikings football game in Cleveland, CBS-TV cameraman Harry Hinkle is sent sprawling when a 220-pound halfback crashes into him at the sidelines. While Harry is at the hospital for a checkup, he is visited by his brother-in-law, Willie Gingrich, a shyster lawyer who pounces upon the incident as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a million dollars by suing CBS, the Cleveland Browns, and Municipal Stadium. Harry's protests are ignored as the conniving Willie shows the weak-willed Harry how to feign all the symptoms of an injured back. Propped in a wheelchair, simulating partial paralysis and blindness, Harry, under the watchful eye of Willie, deceives a barrage of doctors and insurance investigators. The only joyful note in the masquerade for Harry is the return of his money-hungry ex-wife Sandy, who left him for a second-rate musician. Gradually, however, Harry begins to have conscience trouble as Boom Boom Jackson, the black halfback who bowled him over, becomes so despondent at the thought of having crippled a man that he insists on moving in with Harry and becoming his nurse. Meanwhile, a persistent private eye named Purkey films all of Harry's activities from a room across the street. Eventually Purkey admits to Harry and Willie that he has failed to produce evidence of a hoax and concludes with some racist remarks directed at Boom Boom, thereby provoking Harry to leap in fury from his wheelchair. Though Purkey's coup fails because he has neglected to put film in his hidden camera, Harry, who has become disgusted by Sandy's mercenary behavior, obligingly repeats his actions once the camera has been loaded. Crushed, but not defeated, Willie bellows that he and ... +


During a Cleveland Browns--Minnesota Vikings football game in Cleveland, CBS-TV cameraman Harry Hinkle is sent sprawling when a 220-pound halfback crashes into him at the sidelines. While Harry is at the hospital for a checkup, he is visited by his brother-in-law, Willie Gingrich, a shyster lawyer who pounces upon the incident as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a million dollars by suing CBS, the Cleveland Browns, and Municipal Stadium. Harry's protests are ignored as the conniving Willie shows the weak-willed Harry how to feign all the symptoms of an injured back. Propped in a wheelchair, simulating partial paralysis and blindness, Harry, under the watchful eye of Willie, deceives a barrage of doctors and insurance investigators. The only joyful note in the masquerade for Harry is the return of his money-hungry ex-wife Sandy, who left him for a second-rate musician. Gradually, however, Harry begins to have conscience trouble as Boom Boom Jackson, the black halfback who bowled him over, becomes so despondent at the thought of having crippled a man that he insists on moving in with Harry and becoming his nurse. Meanwhile, a persistent private eye named Purkey films all of Harry's activities from a room across the street. Eventually Purkey admits to Harry and Willie that he has failed to produce evidence of a hoax and concludes with some racist remarks directed at Boom Boom, thereby provoking Harry to leap in fury from his wheelchair. Though Purkey's coup fails because he has neglected to put film in his hidden camera, Harry, who has become disgusted by Sandy's mercenary behavior, obligingly repeats his actions once the camera has been loaded. Crushed, but not defeated, Willie bellows that he and the N.A.A.C.P. will sue Purkey for his anti-Negro, anti-American remarks. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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