I LOVE MY WORK-Victor Mature finds it exciting, profitable to do what he's asked, never squawks
In this age of discontent, neuroses, ulcers and other fashionable problems, it's refreshing to come upon an actor like Victor Mature who smilingly admits, "I have no problems. I'm one actor who is owned lock, stock and Darryl (Zanuck) and the harder I work the more I love it." Since Vic's work involves making make-believe love to Susan Hayward, Jane Russell, Mari Blanchard et al, you might be tempted to sneer, "Of course he loves it-why not?" But you'd be surprised what a rarity Vic is in Hollywood. The fact that, in addition to a $5,000 weekly salary, Vic also draws a yearly bonus, proves that 20th Century-Fox recognizes his love for his work. He doesn't get that dough merely for being a good boy.
Vic does one film a year for RKO and is always sought after by other studios who want to borrow him. His home lot, 20th Century-Fox, earns fancy sums for these loanouts, while Vic draws his regular salary. At the end of the year, they find Vic hasn't squawked or squirmed, but accepted every loanout without hitch. In other words, he's piled up nothing but profits for the studio. Hence the bonus.
It seems incongruous that anyone with as much enthusiasm as Vic has never made any heavy-handed battles for pictures. "I'm more of a refugee in that department. I shouldn't admit it, but I'm not always so shrewd in picking roles. I wasn't wild to do 'Samson and Delilah.'"
Vic had spent most of his time hammering at the critics to forget the "beautiful hunk of man" tag, and they were just beginning to exclaim, "this guy can talk!"
"Five years in the service, a couple of modern day pictures, and I was afraid the Samson role would again type me. How wrong can you be? They double-crossed my reasoning, and the picture wasn't just a mild $4,000,000 success, but the top picture of the year at a whopping $17,000,000 at the box-office."
No wonder Vic loves his work! That experience taught him not to fight for, or against, roles assigned to him. His cooperative attitude has paid off. For doing what he's told, and not squawking, he'll probably be in the Oscar-running for his powerful performances in 20th Century-Fox's "The Robe" and "Demetrius and the Gladiators."
We caught up with Vic on the set of the latter, and found out that his scholarly, Biblical roles have not dimmed one wit his colorful, devil-may-care personality. It seems the other day Vic and an actor friend, who related the story to us, were dressed to the teeth in their gaudy Roman soldier costumes. A phone call to the set informed Vic that he had to sign some legal papers in downtown Los Angeles.
Vic and his buddy didn't have time to change to business suits on their short lunch hour, so they jumped into the car, still in costume, and drove downtown. Vic hotfooted it up the steps of the sedate City Hall, armor clanging, signed the paper and returned to the car without major incident. On their way back to the studio, they stopped for lunch. The waiter took one look at the warlike Roman gladiators and hesitated before seating them. "What's the matter?" demanded Mature. "Don't you serve members of the Armed Forces?"
Vic approached our sideline seat on the set with a secretarial pad in his hand. "This is the list of what I should do today." He read two pages of "things to do."
"After work, I'll drop by my television or appliance stores and check up. I never leave until I learn something about the business I didn't know. When I first started these unannounced visits, I found out five or six things I didn't know."
Vic makes a list concerning the business, and then reminds his managers what they promised to do and keeps them to it.
"I had to learn my lesson the hard way," he sighed, "you know you can't get around reading that small print. I once invested $1,500 in building a sundeck on my house. Then, after I built the outside stairway, which was the only way to reach it, I learned it was over my property line."
Naturally, the stairs had to be torn down, but in true Mature fashion he swung a rope around the deck's railing and 'tis said scampered up Tarzan-style.
As you can see, there's no stopping this fellow once he wants something, and this energetic, go-to-it attitude is not something he hastily learned in Hollywood.
"I was an eager beaver when I was 14," Vic smiled slowly as he said it. "I was always big for my age and looked around 18, so I got work as a candy jobber. In the Summer I'd get up at 5 a.m., go to the jobber and load up on my orders, deliver them, and get home around 11 p.m."
Vic was doing the work of three salesmen, and considers to this day that perseverance was the main factor in getting him to his present successful career. "When they see you in there every day doing the best you can, you're going to get attention. Perseverance," he commented, "makes an awfully good charm item."
Vic's drive can be traced to his father who came to America as an immigrant and worked his way up from riding a bicycle around the countryside selling knives, to the refrigerator contractor who installed all the refrigeration for Notre Dame University.
Even when Vic is at the studio, his mind is ticking away at breakneck speed on business. He is the only actor we ever knew to have a television set in his portable dressing room, and just to remind passerby that he owns two television stores and an electric appliance emporium Mature tacks posters of his best buys on the outside of the dressing room.
Such a subtle approach averages him two sales a week. Although the stores are thriving, most of the benefits go to his partners and store managers. Also, he hopes it will be a legacy for his stepson, Mike, when he grows up. One of Vic's best friends is Mickey Sherrard, 20th wardrobe man. This Winter another TV store opens with Mickey set as manager and partner.
When Vic Mature gets a feeling about someone, he trusts him implicitly. Maybe that's why he draws friends from such a variety of professions. A doctor in New York, a magazine editor, a publicity man, and several actors. Richard Widmark, Jim Backus, Richard Egan and Bill Tallman are all close buddies in Vic's circle.
Mature is a very smart business man as witness his recent appointment to the Board of Directors of Douglas J. Roesch, manufacturers of electronics.
Of course, Vic didn't just fall into such top-drawer enterprises. "I've had many backfire," he announced flatly. "When I was 19, I opened a restaurant in Louisville. The first month I lost $300 and from the looks of it I'd have been in the hole even more the second. The help was stealing me blind, and I didn't have sense enough to know it. Finally, I contacted the manager of the famous Childs Restaurant. He was going on a two weeks vacation, but I told him I'd pay double his salary if he'd spend one week helping me at the restaurant."
Who could by-pass such an offer, especially with the Mature charm at work? The manager started out by firing everyone. Then he taught the neophyte such things as weighing meat for the sandwiches and further discovered Vic had been paying 15 cents a pound too much for beef. He broke even after two months and then Mature sold the restaurant.
Vic came off of that experience with a professional eye on how to select meat. When he gives a party, the food would make a chef at the Waldorf drool. The other Sunday he hosted a birthday party for Mickey Sherrard and took over at the barbecue to prove he's a threat with a cookbook.
When this film is completed I'm going to play 54 holes of golf. I haven't even looked at a ball while on the picture and my mantel is beginning to look vacant."
The mantel has seven golf trophies which Vic has won-we might add there was only one other person participating in the tournament. The deal was for the winner to buy the loser a trophy and vice versa.
"Even when I came in second, my pals had first place engraved on the trophy. As Jerry Lewis explained, 'It doesn't cost any more to put first and it looks more impressive.'"
Currently, Vic is engaged in running for honorary Mayor of West Los Angeles. "I promise no mud-slinging," he said punching the words, and he couldn't resist a plug, "a TV set in every house."
Vic is a vital and straightforward personality. He has the customary business manager-"as a bookkeeper." "There's none of that weekly allowance stuff for me. A man is a man. If he can't handle his own affairs he has no one to blame but himself."
Although Mature can expertly juggle his career, he's a goner when it comes to clothes and order. His dressing room was sprawling with armor, a package of band-aids, a bottle of ketchup, the loudest red shirt (his personal wardrobe, natch) and of course a pile of cards listing the locations of his stores.
He's a one-of-a-kind personality in a carbon copy town. Why, he's even got a "beef box" at his stores, so if his customer is dissatisfied he'll know about it.
Now, Vic plans to select the worst beefs and personally visit the complaining family to find out what they object to in his TV service.
Can't you imagine some housewife opening the door to find handsome Vic and his store manager inquiring about her complaint? We don't need a crystal ball to predict that beef box will melt like butter in July under such a system.