The Fortune Cookie 10/09/21
Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s comeback comedy performed decently enough at the box office, but its real accomplishment is vaulting Walter Matthau into mainline stardom. Matthau embodies the most venal ambulance chaser alive: Whiplash Willie Gingrich. His sad insurance scam scramble for unearned, undeserved loot is more of an exposé of sagging American values than anything particularly satircal. Jack Lemmon is the straight man this time around. He spends much of the movie in a medical collar, being victimized to make a fast buck. But Matthau hits the laughs out of the park — it’s an inspired performance that won him a Best Supporting Oscar. “You know Willie. He could find a loophole in the Ten Commandments.” With Ron Rich, Judi West, and Cliff Osmond. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.