Victor Mature

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Victor Mature
Victor Mature - publicity.JPG
circa 1940s
BornVictor John Mature
(1913-01-29)January 29, 1913
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedAugust 4, 1999(1999-08-04) (aged 86)
Rancho Santa Fe, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Years active1939–84
Martha Stephenson Kemp (m. 1941–43)
Dorothy Standford Berry (m. 1948–55)
Adrienne Joy Urwick (m. 1959–69)
Loretta G. Sebena (m. 1974–99)
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Victor Mature
Victor Mature - publicity.JPG
circa 1940s
BornVictor John Mature
(1913-01-29)January 29, 1913
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedAugust 4, 1999(1999-08-04) (aged 86)
Rancho Santa Fe, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Years active1939–84
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 part of the 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]


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 and again in 1976 along with many other former Hollywood stars in Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood. His last appearance was a cameo as a millionaire in the 1979 film Firepower.

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]

His first wife was Martha Stephenson Kemp. His second 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]


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
1939The Housekeeper's DaughterLefty
1940Captain CautionDan Marvin
1940One Million B.C.TumakAlternative title: Cave Man
1940No, No, NanetteWilliam Trainor
1941I Wake Up ScreamingFrankie Christopher (Botticelli)Alternative title: Hot Spot
1941Shanghai Gesture, TheThe Shanghai GestureDoctor Omar
1942My Gal SalPaul Dresser
1942Seven Days' Leave
1942Song of the Islands
1942Footlight Serenade
1943Show Business at WarHimselfShort subject
1946My Darling ClementineDoc Holliday
1947Moss RoseMichael Drego
1947Kiss of DeathNick Bianco
1948Cry of the CityLt. Candella
1948Fury at Furnace CreekCash Blackwell/Tex Cameron
1949Red, Hot and BlueDanny James
1949Easy LivingPete Wilson
1949Samson and DelilahSamson
1950Wabash Avenue
1950Gambling House
1952Las Vegas Story, TheThe Las Vegas StoryLt. Dave Andrews
1952Something for the Birds
1952Million Dollar MermaidJames Sullivan
1952Androcles and the LionCaptain
1953The Glory Brigade
1953Affair with a StrangerBill Blakeley
1953Robe, TheThe RobeDemetriusFirst movie in CinemaScope
1954The Veils of Bagdad
1954Dangerous MissionMatt HallettAlternative title: Rangers of the North
1954Demetrius and the GladiatorsDemetriusSequel to The Robe
1954Egyptian, TheThe EgyptianHoremheb
1954BetrayedThe Scarf
1955Chief Crazy HorseChief Crazy Horse
1955The Last FrontierJed Cooper
1955Violent SaturdayShelley Martin
1956ZarakZarak KhanFirst film for Warwick Films
1956SafariKen Duffield
1956The Sharkfighters
1957InterpolCharles SturgisAlternative title: Pickup Alley
1957Long Haul, TheThe Long HaulHarry Miller
1958China DollCaptain Cliff BrandonMade for Romina Productions, Mature's own company
1958No Time to DieSgt. David H. ThatcherAlternative title: Tank Force
1958Escort WestBenMade for Romina Productions, Mature's own company
1959Big Circus, TheThe Big CircusHenry Jasper "Hank" Whirling
1959TimbuktuMike Conway
1959HannibalHannibalAlternative title: Annibale
1959The Bandit of ZhobeLast movie for Warwick Films
1962The Tartars
1966After the FoxTony Powell
1968HeadThe Big Victor
1972Every Little Crook and NannyCarmine Ganucci
1976Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved HollywoodNick
1979FirepowerHarold Everett
1977M*A*S*HDr. John "Doc" HollidayTV series, episode: "Movie Tonight"
1984Samson and DelilahManoahTelevision movie

Theatre credits[edit]

See also[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". 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]