Jewish Journal


January 19, 2012

Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon walk into an Israeli deli…



The first high profile Hollywood mission to Israel took place in 1984, according to my research, and was hosted by renowned William Morris agent Stan Kamen and a young Sherry Lansing, then an up and coming executive at 20th Century Fox. The big headliners on that trip were Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, whom Lansing said were back then “the equivalent of Brad Pitt.” Well, almost anyway. As I was writing about the trip for my upcoming Israel series, I came across this transcript from CNN’s Larry King Live tribute to Jack Lemmon just after he died. Matthau’s son Charlie called in to the show to share one salient memory from his youth:

KING: Charlie Matthau in New York, thanks very much for spending some moments with us. How are we going to remember Jack Lemmon?

C. MATTHAU: Well, I think the way I’m going to remember him is in 1984, the Lemmons and the Matthaus took a trip to Israel, and my father took us out to a deli in Tel Aviv. And Jack ordered fried shrimp and a chocolate frapp. So, 12 years later, when I got to direct them in the “Grass Harp” Jack had an idea for a scene, and he whispered it to me, and I said, that is great, let’s try that.

And my dad looked at me, and he said, what are you listening to him for? He orders fried shrimp and a chocolate frapp in a Jewish deli!

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