Mathews as Jack the Giant Killer
January 8, 1926|
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
July 5, 2007 (aged 81)|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Partner(s)||Tom Nicoll (1961–2007; his death)|
Kerwin Mathews (January 8, 1926 – July 5, 2007) was an American actor best known for playing the titular heroes in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960) and Jack the Giant Killer (1962).
Life and career
Mathews was born in Seattle, Washington and was two years old when he moved with his divorced mother to Janesville, Wisconsin. He attended Janesville High School, graduating in 1943. Mathews said that "a kind high school teacher put me in a play, and that changed my life." According to a classmate, he was a "handsome rascal".
After serving in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II as a pilot and swimming instructor, he attended and performed at nearby Milton College for two years before transferring to Beloit College on drama and music scholarships. He remained at Beloit three years after graduation teaching speech and dramatic arts and appeared in regional theatre. He also taught high school English in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1954, Mathews acted at the Pasadena Playhouse, including a production of Comedy of Error. While there he met the head of casting for Columbia Pictures, leading to a seven-year studio contract.
One of his first roles was in the episode "The Escape of Mr. Proteus" in Space Patrol. He had an uncredited bit in Cell 2455, Death Row (1955) for Columbia. His first credited film role was in 5 Against the House (1955), an early role for Kim Novak. His pay was $200 a week. Mathews was then cast in the title role of an adaptation of Joseph and His Brethren with Rita Hayworth. However the film was cancelled shortly before filming was to commence. 
Mathews' first sizeable role was as Lee J. Cobb's son in The Garment Jungle (1957). He was promoted to star for Tarawa Beachhead (1958), a war film produced by Charles Schneer. Schneer liked the actor's work and cast him in the role of Sinbad in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), directed by Nathan Juran with effects by Ray Harryhausen. The movie was a big success and remains Mathews' most famous film. Juran called Mathews "the epitome of professionalism."
He was announced for Stop 424 to be shot in Australia by Columbia but it was not made.
Mathews co-starred with Van Johnson in The Last Blitzkrieg (1959), a war film for Sam Katzman, and Man on a String (1960) with Ernest Borgnine (Mathews replaced Cliff Robertson for the latter).. In The Last Blitzkrieg Mathews gave a strong performance in a role where he was cast against type, as a fanatical Nazi. He did an episode of Goodyear Theatre and went to Italy to make The Warrior Empress (1960) with Tina Louise. He was on stand by to replace Dirk Bogarde on Song Without End (1960) when Bogarde was clashing with the director.
Schneer cast Mathews in an unofficial follow up to The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960), playing the title role, with effects by Harryhausen. Columbia then put him in a prestigious film, The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961), billed underneath Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy.
Mathews went to England to star in a swashbuckler film for Hammer Films released through Columbia, The Pirates of Blood River (1962). Edward Small cast him as Jack the Giant Killer (1962), directed by Juran, an attempt to repeat the success of Sinbad only without Harryhausen or Schneer.
Hammer called him back to play the title role in Maniac (1963), a psycho thriller released by Columbia. He then left Columbia.
Mathews went to France to play Jean Bruce's OSS 117 in OSS 117 se déchaîne (1964). In Hollywood he played Johann Strauss, Jr. in the Disney two-part telefilm The Waltz King (1963), which was his favorite role.
He did another OSS 117 film, Panic in Bangkok (1964), then starred in The Viscount (1967), also from a novel by Bruce. In between he starred in a pilot for a TV show that did not go to series, Ghostbreakers.
Mathews starred in some low budget films, Battle Beneath the Earth (1968), and Un killer per sua maestà (968). He had a support part in A Boy... a Girl (1969) directed by John Derek and Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon (1969) a pilot for a proposed Dan Curtis series.
Mathews had support roles in Barquero (1970), the TV movie Death Takes a Holiday (1971), and Octaman (1971). He guest starred on General Hospital and Ironside. His last lead was The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973), directed by Juran.
He was survived by his partner of 46 years, Tom Nicoll, a British display manager at Harvey Nichols, a British luxury department store, whom he had met in 1961. 
The city of Janesville subsequently renamed a one-block street adjacent to the former Janesville High School "Kerwin Mathews Court". The renovated building now houses the Janesville Performing Arts Center.
† Pilots for unsold series
‡ OSS 117 film
- "Kerwin Mathews, 81; fantasy film hero". Los Angeles Times. July 10, 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2007.
- Brian Reisinger (July 17, 2007). "Janesville residents remember famed actor". The Janesville Gazette. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved July 18, 2007.
- KATHERINE, V. B. (1953, Aug 05). 'COMEDY OF ERRORS' OFFERED AT PLAYHOUSE. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/166511726?accountid=13902
- Ann miller to co-star. (1954, Oct 16). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/113029585?accountid=13902
- Swires, June 1987 p 28-29
- By THOMAS M PRYORSpecial to The New York Times. (1955, Apr 16). METRO TO REMAKE 'THE PAINTED VEIL'. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/113462352?accountid=13902
- By OSCAR GODBOUT Special to The New York Times. (1956, Jun 02). BRISKIN TO MAKE TV FILMS ON OWN. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/113604691?accountid=13902
- By A.H. WEILER. (1956, Oct 21). SCREENING THE LOCAL MOTION PICTURE SCENE. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/113710964?accountid=13902
- Swires, Steve (April 1989). "Nathan Juran: The Fantasy Voyages of Jerry the Giant Killer Part One". Starlog Magazine. No. 141. p. 62.
- By OSCAR GODBOUTSpecial to The New York Times. (1958, Sep 02). GENE KELLY PLANS COMEDY ON VALET. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/114569805?accountid=13902
- By THOMAS M PRYORSpecial to The New York Times. (1959, Mar 05). LEE REMICK SIGNS FOR MURDER FILM. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/114685109?accountid=13902
- Swires, June 1987 p 31
- Scott, J. (1960, Feb 14). Agile kerwin mathews flexes muscles as modern fairbanks. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/167663158?accountid=13902
- Ann Fiore (October 9, 2007). "Street to be renamed to honor local actor". The Janesville Gazette. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved October 9, 2007.
- Swires, Steve (June 1987). "Kerwin Mathews: The Perilous Voyages of Sinbad Part One". Starlog. No. 119. pp. 28–64.
- Swires, Steve (July 1987). "Kerwin Mathews: Confessions of a Giant Killer Part Two". Starlog. No. 120. pp. 67–70.