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The Fortune Cookie

The Fortune Cookie
theatrical film poster
Directed by Billy Wilder
Produced by Billy Wilder
Written by I.A.L. Diamond
Billy Wilder
Starring Jack Lemmon
Walter Matthau
Music by André Previn
Cinematography Joseph LaShelle
Edited by Daniel Mandell
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • October 19, 1966 (1966-10-19) (US)
Running time
125 minutes
Language English
Budget $3,705,000
Box office $6,800,000[1]

The Fortune Cookie (alternative UK title: Meet Whiplash Willie) is a 1966 film starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in their first on-screen collaboration, and directed by Billy Wilder from a script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond.


CBS cameraman Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) gets injured when football player Luther "Boom Boom" Jackson (Ron Rich) runs into him while he is covering a Browns game at Cleveland Stadium. Harry's injuries are minor, but his conniving lawyer brother-in-law William H. "Whiplash Willie" Gingrich (Walter Matthau) convinces him to pretend that his leg and hand have been partially paralyzed. This way, they can receive a huge indemnity from the insurance company.[2] Harry reluctantly goes along with the scheme because he is still in love with his ex-wife, Sandy (Judi West), and it might win her back. The insurance company suspects that the paralysis is a fake one, so a cat-and-mouse game starts between its investigator, Chester Purkey (Cliff Osmond), and the shyster Willie. Boom Boom takes very good care of Harry, who starts having second thoughts as he witnesses guilt taking its toll on Boom Boom. As he also sees that Sandy is back by his side strictly out of greed, Harry decides to reveal the truth, thereby ruining Willie's get-rich plans.



  • This was the first film to feature the movie partnership of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who were to appear together in ten films:

Jack Lemmon originally had two other actors proposed to star with him – Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason – but Lemmon insisted that he do the picture with Walter Matthau. Production on the film was halted for weeks after Walter Matthau had a heart attack. He had slimmed from 190 to 160 pounds by the time filming was completed and had to wear a heavy black coat to conceal the weight loss.

Scenes were filmed at the Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns game, held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on the afternoon of Halloween 1965, in which the Vikings beat the Browns 27-17. "Saint Mark's Hospital" in the film is the newly completed St. Vincent Charity Hospital, a curved building considered ultramodern at that time. The scene[clarification needed] was filmed on East 24th Street in an older section. Terminal Tower served as the exterior of the law firm. In one scene, one can see Erieview Tower and the steel skeleton of the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building under construction.

Box office

The Fortune Cookie grossed $6,000,000 at the North American box office,[3] making it the 24th highest grossing film of 1966. The film earned $6.8 million worldwide.[1]

Awards and honors

Walter Matthau won the 1966 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this film. The film also received Oscar nominations for Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black-and-White) (Robert Luthardt, Edward G. Boyle), Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay. Walter Matthau was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy.[4]



  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for The Fortune Cookie. IMDb. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  2. ^ A large amount for its time, the settlement is one million dollars.
  3. ^ "The Fortune Cookie, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved April 16, 2012. 
  4. ^ "NY Times: The Fortune Cookie". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 

External links