Certainly, at this early point in his career, few critics judged Victor as a celluloid threat to such swashbuckling favorites as Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., but the reviewers felt obligated to report to the readers the status of Mature's ability. "His work is bluntly, amateurish," said Boehnel of the World-Telegram, while Wanda Hale (New York Daily News), in her two-and-a-half star review of Captain Caution, complained, "As to acting, Mature is the antithesis of his name." Archer Winsten (New York Post) hit upon the most obvious aspect of the player's qualification for stardom: "[He] is equipped for the role only in physical aspects."

However, Victor was recognized for his 1940 screen "achievements" in the Harvard Lampoon when they announced their annual awards on January 26, 1941: Mature, along with former Boston debutante Leila Ernst, was selected as the least likely to succeed in Hollywood.

At this point, Victor's personal life seemingly consisted of nothing but escorting one new girl after another on the Los Angeles nightclub circuit. At different times he was seen and photographed at Hollywood club spots with Carole Landis, Phyllis Brooks, Wendy Barrie, Alice Faye, and Lana Turner. With the publication of such photographs (many of them staged for obvious publicity purposes), he became the undisputed champion of male glamour. He admitted to the press that he preferred petite blondes and that he avoided exercise in any form except for an occasional swim. His favorite foods were reported to be ice cream, lamb chops, and Coca Cola, with only an infrequent use of either tobacco or alcohol. By mid-1940, his favorite companion was Betty Grable, newly divorced from Jackie Coogan and not yet involved with either George Raft or Harry James. His reason for preferring the Twentieth Century-Fox film favorite was: "She makes me laugh."

By 1940, Hal Roach was in a financial pinch and agreed to let RKO share Victor's contract. A six-picture pact was arranged, whereby Roach would receive most of the salary that would accrue to Victor for his screen services. RKO placed him in their 1940 version of the 1925 stage musical No, No, Nanette. In Ken Englund's screen adaptation, the supporting role of William was written especially for Victor. As a Broadway producer of musicals, he is one of Nanette's (Anna Neagle) suitors, but he loses her to Tom (Richard Carlson). The memorable Vincent Youmans songs were relegated to background music. Directed in the role of Nanette by her producer-husband Herbert Wilcox, Britain's Miss Neagle never looked prettier.

It was then that Victor and his associates reckoned that his acting career wouldn't get anywhere unless he had some legitimate professional exposure. Feelers were sent out on Broadway, and when interest was shown by New York's Group Theatre, he went East to investigate. As he would later explain to reporters: "One of the reasons I was anxious to get away from Hollywood was to slay, while it was still in the process of growing, the legend that I was just a glamour boy with a lucky streak. Nobody seems to care very much that I'm an actor only because I like acting and have wanted to make it my life's work ever since I left home in Louisville when I was seventeen."

Victor's companion for the trip to Manhattan was Betty Grable. They spent their first evening in New York at a dinner party hosted by Miss Grable's agent, Louis Shurr, whose sharp eyes picked out Victor as a possibility for a role in Moss Hart's new play, Lady in the Dark. Arrangements were negotiated, and Victor gave up the Group Theatre in favor of romancing Gertrude Lawrence as the Lady. In the part of movie hero, Randy Curtis, Victor was on stage for forty minutes of the nearly three-hour show. He had 133 lines of dialog and was required to sing one verse of a Kurt Weill song.

After the play's Boston showing, which had begun on January 5, 1941, the show opened at New York's Alvin Theatre on January 24. Produced by Sam H. Harris at a cost of $130,000, the musical was presented on four revolving stages and brought recognition to newcomers Danny Kaye and Macdonald Carey. Time Magazine referred to Victor as the "latest in Hollywood's series of almost outrageously beautiful young men." Life proclaimed him the "new matinee idol," and stated that he "combines the most striking qualities of Robert Taylor, Nils Asther and Gargantua."

The Moss Hart dialog provided a description of Victor's stage character that was to stick with the actor throughout most of his screen career. Just before his entrance on stage, the character Randy Curtis is called a "beautiful hunk of man." The label was immediately picked up by columnists and was to become synonymous with the name Victor Mature. Few people seemed to recall, at that time or later, that Victor had received commendable press notices for his Broadway debut: "He plays with an engaging manner, simply, directly and effectively" (Sidney B. Whipple, New York World Telegram); "[he] managed to be both simple and fatuous with little effort" (George Greedley, New York Morning Telegraph); "[he] is unobjectionably handsome and affable" (Brooks Atkinson, New York Times).

While souvenir seekers hounded the stage door of the Alvin Theatre for Victor's autograph or an article of his attire (buttons or a piece of cloth), he devoted his offstage hours to escorting various beauties to Manhattan's night spots. After Miss Grable's return to California where she would soon supersede Alice Faye as Fox's leading musical comedy star, he was paired with Gene Tierney, Vera Zorina, Mrs. Liz Whitney, and musical revue celebrity Bernice Parks. At the Stork Club he was voted by three hundred New York models as the man with whom they would most like to be cast upon a desert island; at Hunter College for Women he was chosen as the first king of the senior hop; he crowned the queen of the annual Stenographers' Ball where he kissed all ten of the fluttery candidates; he endorsed a popular hair tonic for men; and he was photographed with Sara Delano Roosevelt, the President's mother, in an appearance on behalf of British and Greek war relief."

When it was revealed that Victor's bicep measured fifteen inches around when he flexed his arm, Don Blackman, the light heavy-weight black wrestling champion of the world whose bicep measured sixteen inches, wrote him, "You are my favorite male star and muscle man in the white race." But Victor declined an invitation from Blackman to spend two weeks working out in the ring with him. The actor went on record, stating, "I can act, but what I've got that the others don't have is this," meaning his body. Life pointed out that he "came by this through no fault of his own" and took particular note of the fact that Victor did not do any body building exercises and of his penchant for nocturnal club hopping until four or five in the morning. Nevertheless, Victor indicated that he expected to remain in good physical shape until his late fifties, the age at which the male members of his family usually died.

Mature had an appendectomy on April 10, 1941, and after nearly a month's recuperation, he returned to Lady in the Dark on May 7, 1941 (Edward Trevor substituted for him on stage). Later in May he auctioned off an article of feminine underwear at a Manhattan benefit. The item was purchased by socialite Martha Stephenson Kemp, the widow of bandleader Hal Kemp who had been killed in an automobile crash in December, 1940. Victor then courted Mrs. Kemp in a fast affair that was supposed to end in marriage at St. Patrick's Cathedral on June 15, 1941. Or so the press and public thought. However, those who showed up at the Fifth Avenue Church that Sunday were disappointed.

No, No, Nanette