John Joseph Mature was born on
January 29, 1913, in Louisville, Kentucky. Vic had a very happy childhood
and had this to say about his parents Marcellus and Clara Mature. "He
was a wonderful man; colorful, dynamic, a real man. My mother is swell
too. She has great vivacity and charm. She's down to earth, a thoroughly
nice person. She does a lot of social work, you know. She loves laughter;
she's fun. People love her; even the nuns get a kick out of her joviality
and kidding." Early in his childhood Vic became a good businessman
while helping his father in his door to door scissors grinding and knife
sharpening business. Marcellus Mature once told Vic, "Life owes you
nothing no more than a man deserves a woman merely because he happens to
love her." Vic followed Marcellus' business philosophy and was a very
intelligent, hard working businessman. At age 9 he sold magazines. He ran
a candy business by selling it wholesale to candy stores at age 14. Always
one to have a way with girls, he'd smile and say charmingly, "Just
let me leave the candy. If you don't sell it I'll take it back." Of
course they always sold it. At 17 he bought a restaurant in Louisville at
Brook and Oak Streets, the center of high school activity. It was a plush
establishment with five private dining rooms and fourteen booths.
Always the charming entertainer,
Vic was thrown out of more boys schools than Clara cared to remember.
Vic's youth was punctuated by frantic calls to Clara from the principals.
There was the time she received a call from St. Xavier's and rushed down
to the school. "I sat on the one chair and the priest on the
other," she says. "Victor sat on the piano stool looking
handsome and innocent. The priest said, 'Your son is a perfect nuisance.
When I go back into the room, he is the comedian. The place is in an
uproar. They sit there entranced.'"
Vic always said that he had
aspirations to become an actor since he turned 17 years old. What led him
to leave Louisville was supposedly a social rebuff by one of the high
society belles when he asked her to dance. He told himself that he would
never return "until the Mature name was so big that those society
people would eat dirt." He packed up his car and set off to
California to become famous with the advice of his father, "As long
as people think you're dumber than you are, you'll make money."
Victor arrived in California with 11 cents. He registered with casting
agencies and went to study at the Pasadena Playhouse while taking various
jobs to pay for tuition. On November 16, 1936 Victor made his acting debut
in "Paths of Glory" at the Pasadena Playhouse. He sent a message
to his father: "I now have more than an ambition. I have a
career." He was awarded a fellowship at the recommendation of Gilmor
Brown. Victor was a very talented actor and he acted in more than 60 plays
at the Pasadena Playhouse including headlining "To Quito and
Back." Hal Roach had seen Victor's picture advertising this play and
gave him the role of Lefty in "The Housekeeper's Daughter
(1939)." He appeared for approximately 5 minutes which caused over
20,000 fans to write letters inquiring about this virile new star. Hal
Roach said, "Actors make parts - parts don't make actors" and
immediately signed Victor to a contract. Victor acted in the cult classic
"One Million B.C. (1940)," "Captain Caution" (1940)
and "No, No Nanette." (1940)
Known for his perfect handsome
face and muscular physique Victor was the favorite of women all over the
world. To further his acting career he appeared on Broadway in Lady In The
Dark with Gertrude Lawrence where he would pick up the tag that would be
with him for his entire career, "Beautiful Hunk of Man." After
that he appeared in von Sternberg's "The Shanghai Gesture" with
Gene Tierney. He was much in demand and went on loanout to Twentieth
Century-Fox and appeared in the film noir "I Wake Up Screaming"
(1941) with two former girlfriends, Carole Landis and Betty Grable. In
November 1941 Fox bought Victor's contract. He went on to appear in many
more great film noir movies and musical comedies. He is well known for his
role as Paul Dresser in "My Gal Sal" (1942) where he met Rita
Hayworth, with whom he had one of his most publicized romances.
Victor was extremely popular in
the fan movie magazines and his ability to charm the women was well known
throughout his whole career. Also mentioned as "The Man No Woman Can
Resist" he romanced some of the most beautiful and famous women in
the world including Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, Veronica Lake, Gene
Tierney, Betty Grable and Esther Williams. He was married 5 times and was
very happily married to his fifth wife Lorey until his death.
Victor once said that when
success really did hit he intended to be a regular guy. "I don't want
to get that front, that attitude which demands front tables in clubs,
which causes one to forget one's early friends. I know I can keep on being
regular." Victor always kept his promise and was a "regular
guy" keeping his friends who had been his close friends from the time
he first came to Hollywood. He was a very down to earth nice person who
always had time for his fans and friends. In addition to being known for
his handsome good looks, he was also known for his amazing sense of humor
which kept his friends and fans always laughing. Vic was well known for
being generous to his friends and acquaintances. On one occasion, during
the war, Vic had taken $1,000 in cash with him on a motor trip to Palm
Springs. He crammed his car with hitchhiking servicemen on the way there,
and when he arrived he had to borrow money for his dinner. He'd given his
money all away to help the servicemen. He also was always there to stick
up for the underdog. He said, "I can't bear to see anyone belittled
even by a glance. Brother, that's something that really sets me off. If
I'm on a picture, for instance, and the director heckles some little
fellow, then I heckle the director. That "big shot" act some
people put on at the expense of the underdog, burns me."
During World War II Victor served
in the Coast Guard for 30 months and was the recipient of the Good Conduct
Ribbon. After the war Victor lived in his dressing room on the lot for ten
months. When a reporter asked him, "Couldn't you find a place to
live?" Vic replied, "I could have, but I thought it was rather
crummy of me to rent myself a place when veterans with families were
sitting on the curbs. The dressing room was okay. It had a bath. I ate all
my meals out."
After the war Vic went back to
acting and starred in John Ford's classic "My Darling Clementine"
(1946) as tubercular Doc Holliday. He received fantastic reviews for his
portrayal. He then appeared as Nick Bianco in "Kiss of Death,"
(1947) for which he received rave reviews. C.B. DeMille noticed Vic's
performance in "Kiss of Death" and chose Victor to star in
probably his best known role as Samson in "Samson and Delilah"
(1949) with Hedy Lamarr. He performed in many other films throughout the
1940s and was an incredibly popular actor. He later appeared as Demetrius
in the Biblical classic and first Cinemascope film "The Robe"
(1953) with Richard Burton and Jean Simmons. He went on to appear in other
costume Biblical pictures such as "Demetrius and the Gladiators"
(1954) and "The Egyptian." (1954)
He acted in many other classic
movies of the 50s and 60s including the cult classic "Head"
(1968) with the Monkees, and in "After the Fox" (1968) with
Peter Sellers spoofing his former image. In the 1970s he made a few
appearances such as in "Every Little Crook and Nanny" (1972)
with Lynn Redgrave. The studios still always asked him to appear in movies
but Victor enjoyed staying at home with his wife and his daughter,
Victoria. He was an avid golfer who golfed almost every day. He was a very
intelligent business man who invested his money wisely in real estate and
other ventures. His last movie appearance was in the 1984 remake of
"Samson and Delilah" (1984) in which he appeared as Samson's
father, Manoah. Victor was an extremely talented actor who took his acting
seriously, but he always had a good sense of humor about the acting
profession saying "I'm no actor - and I've got the reviews to prove
it" when he wasn't given membership in a country club that wouldn't
allow actors. He was also known to say "I'm no actor - just watch my
Victor passed away from leukemia
on August 4, 1999. In addition to being strikingly handsome with his
brawny physique, Victor was a talented actor with a brilliant sense of
humor. He was a kind person who has left a legacy of great classic films.
He'll always be remembered as a talented actor and as a kind and generous
person to his friends, family and fans.