VIC FINALLY LEARNS ABOUT LIFE...
No one ever enjoyed the Hollywood whirl more than Victor Mature, yet now, blissfully settled down to a quiet life, he enthuses, "This is living."
Any Hollywood know-it-all would have put money on the line ten years ago that Vic Mature would be a splash in the spotlight, a fad with the fans. He was big, gorgeous, dated the most luscious gals in Hollywood and was publicity-conscious.
Yet here he is-ten years later-one of the few stars to ride the waves of options allowed to expire at the studio where he started, 20th Century-Fox, and possessor of a shiny new contract calling for three years of further starring roles with no options to worry about and a weekly paycheck that's one of the biggest in movietown!
You might wonder-how come? "I ask myself that all the time," he assured me recently with a wide grin. "How come a guy like me, who quit school at age thirteen, should be so lucky?" Continuing in his intimate, confidential manner that's characteristic, Vic propped his elbows on his knees and leaned forward. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world, no kiddin'-everything I touch lately," he glanced around as if to make sure that no one might overhear, "everything turns to gold," he confided happily. "I started a couple of businesses to help good friends of mine get set a little," he continued, "and what happens! We make money!" Vic has a whole string of appliance stores now and four profitable TV shops. He stretched his long arms and legs. "You see before you a really lucky guy. It's phenomenal. Everything I touch," he repeated, knocking on wood.
"How come you quit school when you were thirteen?" I wondered. "Because I was a stubborn kid," he replied without hesitation. "I'd cut school all the time and when exams came along, I'd answer one question after another right down the line by writing a big zero for each one. I was kicked out of a couple of schools before I finally quit," he readily admitted. "I was absolutely wrong," he pointed out. "I could have wound up workin' awfully, awfully hard to make a living with that kind of a start-if I didn't have my luck," he added. "It got me the best job in the world. I love it. I love my work, enjoy the money I get paid for it." "Do you get knee-deep in your roles and really get excited about them?" I asked. Vic eyed me silently for a moment. "Look," he said, "I like being a movie star. I think it's the softest job in the world. It's a lot of kicks to be around a studio and there's nothing like it for pay. But when I leave the studio, I leave acting and roles and conversation about 'em behind." "You don't think about a role you're playing or discuss a script with your wife or friends?" I asked in surprise. "Heck no!" he grinned. Finally beginning to catch on, I asked, "And you don't want to DO A PLAY, to refresh yourself by facing a living audience?" Vic over-ruled the very thought of such a thing with a quick shrug. "Remember," he said, "I'm a business man. I should risk all this (he waved a finger in the general direction of Hollywood) to face a bunch of hard-boiled Broadway critics. For what?" By this time, I was convinced this big hunk of outspoken man had really learned about life at last.
"What do you do for fun?" I asked. "Sit around and gab with the guys," he promptly replied. "What guys?" "My buddies, the same fellows I've been friendly with ever since I came to town. There are about six of us, probably no one you'd know, fellows I met when I first got to 20th, and we've been good friends ever since. They're the kind you don't have to treat like company, y'know?" said Vic. "We go to each other's houses without a formal invitation, help ourselves, and if you feel like it's time to hit the hay, you just go to bed with no apologies necessary." "It's almost like a club," he explained. "We fellas really stick together." "How about wives. Any of them married?" I asked. "Sure a couple are," he said. He ran through the list for me, tabulating which were married, and it turned out that about half of them were. "The others probably never will," he teased. "They take a good look at those of us who are married and swear off. They just don't stick with the same gals too long and avoid getting caught. Yes," he summed it up, "the club's always the same, but the floor show changes from time to time," he concluded with a grin.
"Vic," I said apologetically, "I hesitate to bring this up, but are you and Dorothy..." He smiled, "Everything's fine," he assured me. Instead of going into a big rave to sound convincing, he dropped it right there, feeling he had fully answered my question. However, interspersed in Vic's conversation were a number of unplanned but tender references to his wife of almost five years. Vic and Dorothy's marriage is another matter that has defied the skeptics. It has survived nicely, thus far, the several marked differences of opinion natural to a pair of strong-minded, highly individual personalities.
Vic and Dorothy Mature don't mingle at all with the Hollywood crowd. They now live in a good-looking house on a rural-type land between Beverly Hills and the ocean, where they're aiming for the same kind of privacy they used to seek by living about seventy miles away from the city in an oceanside village called Laguna. That's where the romance between these two, which surprised Hollywood so much, had it's beginning. At the same time that Vic was campaigning for Dorothy, a good-looking but un-flashy socialite, he was making time with her small son, Mike. During the year-and-a-half it took to woo Dorothy, Vic and little Mike became such good pals that it was no strain to convert the friendship into a warm family tie. Said Vic, with a bashful pride that might well surprise casual acquaintances, "Mike and I get along fine. He calls me Daddy. We're pals." Vic talked on about little Mike. "It's rough on a kid, being the child of people who divorce, y'know? One Summer a kid's with one set of grandparents and then pretty soon he's staying some place else. There isn't enough chance to take root." "Do you know the first thing Mike said when he saw his room in the new house?" Vic enthused. "'This is mine,' the boy said, 'and I'm going to stay right here from now on.' Showed how much the boy needed to be settled in a permanent home," Vic added with adult insight. "He's an awfully smart boy," the star confided. "Mike's nine now and bright as they come. In fact, we worry about that. Well, we don't worry," he hastened to amend, "but we give some thought to proper guidance of his intelligence, so he'll use it in the right way. Dorothy knows all about that child psychology stuff," he assured me. "But I began to wonder whether I might be a bad influence," he admitted sheepishly. "You know, I'm kind of an outspoken guy and kind of careless with my language. I asked a couple of very intelligent people about it. You know what they said? Would you believe it-they told me he was getting all the culture and dignity he could use from the relatives and schoolmasters. They said I was the best thing in the world for him!" Vic concluded in a tone that expressed both wonder and delight.
"You know what I do the second that work stops?" he asked. "I make tracks for the golf course. If I have two hours off, I play two hours. If I have an afternoon off, I play for five or six hours. I like to play a full thirty-six holes," he assured me. "It's the greatest-you meet the nicest kind of guys imaginable on a golf course. Once you tee off," he pointed out, "no one gives a hang what a guy does for a living or how much dough he makes, it's what kind of man he is that counts. You can tell what a guy's really like when you're together on a golf course for five or six hours at a crack. If he isn't real, the cracks show."
"I never had a hobby before" Vic continued. "I'm a guy who'd worked all the time. About a year-and-a-half ago, I was exposed to golf and I haven't been able to get enough of it to satisfy me ever since, no matter how many days a week I get to play." He laughed. "It's a good thing I haven't been exposed to any more hobbies. I might not have enough time to make pictures. Just think what would happen if I took up fishing and hunting!" "What do you mean 'no other hobbies'," I teased, "don't you read a book now and then?" "I like to get things first-hand," he grinned, "or in conversation. I always like to have my friends around. That's why I don't even take a script home to study lines. I do that between 'takes' at the studio. It works out just as well."
"Intend to do any more comedy roles?" I asked. "Not especially," he retorted. "Comedy's tough. You really have to be on your toes every second because comedy takes perfect timing. Oh, I like it occasionally," he admitted, "but the more different roles you can do, the more you might get to do and I'm not looking for extra work." "Someone might want to break my neck for saying this," he volunteered, "but you know this heavy drama stuff-the parts that win awards for the people who play 'em, the stuff everyone raves about and says it's great acting? That's what's easy, compared to fast-talking or comedy roles. Just let 'em leave me to my adventures in dramatic pictures," he said with a flourish of the hand toward the spectacular costume he was about to don for his role in U-I's "Prince of Bagdad."
"This is living," Vic declared. "I get up every morning feeling happy to go to work because I'm crazy about my job. Then when I get through with a days' work, whether it takes two hours or ten, I get out of here as fast as my car will take me and forget every darned thing about it until it's time to come back." "It's usually very pleasant on the set," he pointed out, "and the folks you work with are usually good guys. Just once in a while, you run into a director who's not sure of himself and he gives you a little trouble, but," he added with a mischievous smile, "that's easily fixed in a few days' time. He gets a message by thought transmission that he'd better relax or he'll get the pins knocked out from under him, then everything gets fine again."
Talk with Vic Mature is a very refreshing experience. It's like going on a camping trip in the magnificent High Sierra mountains of Northern California, where the gorgeous view and the cool, stimulating air makes the rustic living conditions seem more fun than hardship. Vic is no college professor, but who has ever seen one that looked like that? One thing he is-an adult. His shrewd observations and intelligent personal planning may be voiced in sandpaper language, but his reasoning is clear and his honesty endless.
Speaking of his own shortcomings, he said with good humor, "Dorothy and I went to a Shakespearean Festival and I had to take a dictionary along to understand half the words."