Victor Mature

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Victor Mature
Victor Mature - publicity.JPG
circa 1940s
Born Victor John Mature
(1913-01-29)January 29, 1913
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Died August 4, 1999(1999-08-04) (aged 86)
Rancho Santa Fe, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Leukemia
Occupation Actor
Years active 1939–84
Spouse(s) Frances Charles (m. 1938–40)
Martha Stephenson Kemp (m. 1941–43)
Dorothy Standford Berry (m. 1948–55)
Adrienne Joy Urwick (m. 1959–69)
Loretta G. Sebena (m. 1974–99)

Victor John Mature (January 29, 1913 – August 4, 1999) was an American stage, film and television actor.

Early life[edit]

Mature was born in Louisville, Kentucky. His father, Marcello Gelindo Maturi, later Marcellus George Mature, was an Italian-speaking immigrant from the town Pinzolo, in the Italian part of the former County of Tyrol (now Trentino in Italy, at that time Austrian-Hungarian Empire);[1][2] he was a cutler. His mother, Clara P. (Ackley), was Kentucky-born and of Swiss heritage.[3] An older brother, Marcellus Paul Mature, died at 11 in 1918 from osteomyelitis.[4] Victor Mature was educated at parochial schools, the Kentucky Military Institute and the Spencerian Business School. He briefly sold candy and operated a restaurant before moving to California.[5]

Film career[edit]

Mature went to study and act at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. For three years he lived in a tent and was spotted by an agent for Hal Roach while acting in To Quito and Back.[6] This led to a contract with Roach, who cast him in a small role in The Housekeeper's Daughter then gave Mature his first leading role as a fur-clad caveman in One Million B.C. (1940). This was followed up with Captain Caution.

In 1941 Mature's contract was bought out by 20th Century Fox who used him to star opposite actresses such as Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth. He also supported Gertrude Lawrence on Broadway in Lady in the Dark.[7]

World War II[edit]

In July 1942 Mature attempted to enlist in the U.S. Navy but was rejected for color blindness. He enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard after taking a different eye test the same day. He was assigned to the USCGC Storis, which was doing Greenland patrol work. After 14 months aboard the Storis, Mature was promoted to the rate of Chief Boatswain's Mate.

In 1944 he did a series of War Bond tours and acted in morale shows. He assisted Coast Guard recruiting efforts by being a featured player in the musical revue "Tars and Spars" which opened in Miami, Florida in April 1944 and toured the United States for the next year. In May 1945 Mature was reassigned to the Coast Guard manned troop transport USS Admiral H. T. Mayo which was involved in transferring troops to the Pacific Theater. Mature was honorably discharged from the Coast Guard in November 1945 and he resumed his acting career.[5]

Resumption of career[edit]

After the war, Mature was cast by John Ford in My Darling Clementine, playing Doc Holliday opposite Henry Fonda's Wyatt Earp. Darryl F. Zanuck was delighted that Ford wanted to use Mature, telling the director that:

Personally, I think the guy has been one of the most under-rated performers in Hollywood. The public is crazy about him and strangely enough every picture that he has been in has been a big box-office hit. Yet the Romanoff round table has refused to take him seriously as an actor. A part like Doc Holiday will be sensational for him and I agree with you that the peculiar traits of his personality are ideal for a characterisation such as this.[8]

For the next decade, Mature settled into playing hard-boiled characters in a range of genres such as film noir, Westerns, and Biblical motion pictures like The Robe (with Richard Burton and Jean Simmons) and its sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators (with Susan Hayward). Mature also starred with Hedy Lamarr in Cecil B. DeMille's Biblical epic, Samson and Delilah (1949) and as Horemheb in The Egyptian (1954) with Jean Simmons and Gene Tierney. He reportedly stated he was successful in Biblical epics because he could "make with the holy look".

He also continued to appear in a number of musicals and co-starred with Esther Williams in Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and, according to her autobiography, had a romantic relationship with her.[9]

Mature's old agreement with Roach contained multiple loan-out clauses to RKO which still applied when it was transferred to 20th Century-Fox and he made a number of films for RKO. However Fox suspended him in 1949 for refusing to make Mike Fury.[10] Fox later suspended him for refusing to appear with Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward in Untamed (1955).[11]

In the 1950s Mature's contract with 20th Century Fox ended and he freelanced. He concentrated mostly on action adventure movies, making a number in particular for Warwick Films. In 1954 he signed a two-picture deal with Columbia Pictures giving him script and co-star approval.[12]

Retirement[edit]

After five years of retirement, he was lured back into acting by the opportunity to parody himself in After the Fox (1966), co-written by Neil Simon. Mature played "Tony Powell", an aging American actor who is living off of his reputation from his earlier body of work. In a similar vein in 1968 he played a giant, The Big Victor, in Head, a potpourri movie starring The Monkees. The character poked fun at both his screen image and, reportedly, RCA Victor who distributed Colgems Records, the Monkees's label. Mature enjoyed the script while admitting it made no sense to him saying "All I know is it makes me laugh."

Mature was famously self-deprecatory about his acting skills. Once, after being rejected for membership in a country club because he was an actor, he cracked, "I'm not an actor — and I've got sixty-four films to prove it!"[13][14] He was quoted in 1968 on his acting career: "Actually, I am a golfer. That is my real occupation. I never was an actor. Ask anybody, particularly the critics."[15]

He came out of retirement again in 1971 to star in Every Little Crook and Nanny.

I was never that crazy about acting. I had a compulsion to earn money, not to act. So I worked as an actor until I could afford to retire. I wanted to quit while I could still enjoy life... I like to loaf. Everyone told me I would go crazy or die if I quit working. Yeah? Well what a lovely way to die.[16]

Private life[edit]

Mature was married five times. His first two wives were Frances Charles and Martha Stephenson Kemp. His third wife, Dorothy, whom he married in 1948, divorced him in 1955 alleging mental cruelty.[17] He married Adriene Urwick in 1959 but they divorced. He had also been engaged to Rita Hayworth (before she married Orson Welles) and Anne Shirley.[18]

Death[edit]

Mature died of leukemia in 1999 at his Rancho Santa Fe, California home, at the age of 86. He was buried in the family plot, marked by a replica of the Angel of Grief, at St. Michael's Cemetery in his hometown of Louisville.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Mature has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6780 Hollywood Boulevard.

Selected filmography[edit]

Feature films
Year Title Role Notes
1939 The Housekeeper's Daughter Lefty
1940 Captain Caution Dan Marvin
1940 One Million B.C. Tumak Alternative title: Cave Man
1940 No, No, Nanette William Trainor
1941 I Wake Up Screaming Frankie Christopher (Botticelli) Alternative title: Hot Spot
1941 Shanghai Gesture, TheThe Shanghai Gesture Doctor Omar
1942 My Gal Sal Paul Dresser
1942 Seven Days' Leave
1942 Song of the Islands
1942 Footlight Serenade
1943 Show Business at War Himself Short subject
1946 My Darling Clementine Doc Holliday
1947 Moss Rose Michael Drego
1947 Kiss of Death Nick Bianco
1948 Cry of the City Lt. Candella
1948 Fury at Furnace Creek Cash Blackwell/Tex Cameron
1949 Red, Hot and Blue Danny James
1949 Easy Living Pete Wilson
1949 Samson and Delilah Samson
1950 Wabash Avenue
1950 Stella
1950 Gambling House
1952 Las Vegas Story, TheThe Las Vegas Story Lt. Dave Andrews
1952 Something for the Birds
1952 Million Dollar Mermaid James Sullivan
1952 Androcles and the Lion Captain
1953 The Glory Brigade
1953 Affair with a Stranger Bill Blakeley
1953 Robe, TheThe Robe Demetrius First movie in CinemaScope
1954 The Veils of Bagdad
1954 Dangerous Mission Matt Hallett Alternative title: Rangers of the North
1954 Demetrius and the Gladiators Demetrius Sequel to The Robe
1954 Egyptian, TheThe Egyptian Horemheb
1954 Betrayed The Scarf
1955 Chief Crazy Horse Chief Crazy Horse
1955 The Last Frontier Jed Cooper
1955 Violent Saturday Shelley Martin
1956 Zarak Zarak Khan First film for Warwick Films
1956 Safari Ken Duffield
1956 The Sharkfighters
1957 Interpol Charles Sturgis Alternative title: Pickup Alley
1957 Long Haul, TheThe Long Haul Harry Miller
1958 China Doll Captain Cliff Brandon Made for Romina Productions, Mature's own company
1958 No Time to Die Sgt. David H. Thatcher Alternative title: Tank Force
1958 Escort West Ben Made for Romina Productions, Mature's own company
1959 Big Circus, TheThe Big Circus Henry Jasper "Hank" Whirling
1959 Timbuktu Mike Conway
1959 Hannibal Hannibal Alternative title: Annibale
1959 The Bandit of Zhobe Last movie for Warwick Films
1962 The Tartars
1966 After the Fox Tony Powell
1968 Head The Big Victor
1972 Every Little Crook and Nanny Carmine Ganucci
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood Nick
1979 Firepower Harold Everett
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1977 M*A*S*H Dr. John "Doc" Holliday TV series, episode: "Movie Tonight"
Uncredited
1984 Samson and Delilah Manoah Television movie

Theatre credits[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1920 U.S. Census, Louisville Ward 4, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: T625_578; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 98; Image: 1039
  2. ^ World War I Draft Registration, Jefferson County, Kentucky; Roll: 1653508; Draft Board: 3
  3. ^ 1900 U.S. Census, Louisville Ward 4, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: T623 529; Page: 10A
  4. ^ Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records (1852-1910). Microfilm rolls #994027-994058. Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky
  5. ^ a b Wise, James E., Jr. and Anne Collier Rehill. Stars in Blue. Naval Institute Press, 1997, p. 201. ISBN 1-55750-937-9.
  6. ^ Tentin' Tonight, As Usual, Vic Will Be a Star: Rebellious Young Man Quits Business to Starve, but Wins The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 04 Sep 1939: 12
  7. ^ Vallance, Tom (1999-08-11). "Obituary: Victor Mature". independent.co.uk. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  8. ^ Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck to John Ford dated 8 January 1946, Rudy Behlmer, ed. Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck, Grove Press, 1993 p102
  9. ^ The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography, Esther Williams, Simon & Schuster, 1999 pgs. 212-213 ISBN 0-15-601135-2
  10. ^ Thomas Pryor, 'STUDIO SUSPENSION FOR VICTOR MATURE: FOX STAR REFUSES TO PLAY ROLE IN RKO FILM, 'MIKE FURY,' ON LOAN-OUT COMMITMENT', New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 14 Dec 1949: 44.
  11. ^ Hedda Hopper, 'Victor Mature Suspended by 20th Century-Fox', Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 Aug 1954: 2.
  12. ^ Hedda Hopper, 'Victor Mature Signs Deal for 2 Films at $200,000 Each' Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 06 Nov 1954: 16.
  13. ^ Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard History
  14. ^ Kevin Thomas, 'Victor Mature Hits Stride', Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 07 Dec 1966: D15.
  15. ^ Shipman, David. The Great Movie Stars: The International Years. St. Martin's Press, 1972, p. 330
  16. ^ Scott Vernon, 'Victor Mature's back', Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 21 Nov 1971: t20.
  17. ^ 'Victor Mature's Wife Wins Divorce, $500,000: Judge Grants Decree After Hearing Her Testify He Often Flew Into Rages in Public', Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 09 Nov 1955: A1.
  18. ^ 'Victor Mature Takes 4th Wife at Tijuana', Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 13 Dec 1959: A.
  19. ^ SHAW BECOMES PRANKISH IN SATIRE AT PLAYHOUSE Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 09 Aug 1938: 9.
  20. ^ COMINGS AND GOINGS LATEST STUDIO AND THEATER GOSSIP THE DRAMA WORLD: NEW PLAY TAKES LOOK BEHIND HOTEL SCENE von Blon, Katherine T. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 Oct 1938: C2.
  21. ^ 'PARADISE PLANTATION' POIGNANT FOOTLIGHT PIECE KATHERINET VON BLON. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 26 Nov 1938: A7.
  22. ^ LITTLE THEATERS Katherine Von Blon. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 16 Apr 1939: C4.
  23. ^ Production details Lady in the Dark at IBDB

External links[edit]