The combination of Victor's serious performance in Clementine and his abstinence from much nightclubbing since returning home, led many to believe that the actor was a changed man. He even bought a house, which added a sense of respectability to his reputation. However, after Mary Morris interviewed him late in 1946 for P.M., she claimed in her write-up (entitled "Mr. Beautiful") that "he's still bawdy, reckless, free and breezy."
The house, at a modest cost of $13,000, was located at 11261 Brookhaven Avenue in West Los Angeles, with neighbors close at hand who were not in the least awed at having him in their midst. "It's really the first Hollywood home I've ever had," he told Hedda Hopper. "I've been living in tents, dressing rooms and garages so long that I just decided to get me a house." He added: "The main reason I quit going to nightclubs is that I hardly know anybody at them any more. I've done a lot of clowning and had a heck of a lot of fun. But I've come to know that fame and money mean nothing to a man unless he has the respect of people for what he can do. If I'm going to be an actor, I figure I must do my best at my job."
In 1947, Fox's Tyrone Power was going dramatic in Nightmare Alley and swashbuckling through Captain from Castile; the same studio's Cornel Wilde was being romantic in The Homestretch and cavalier in Forever Amber; Victor, who would have given an interesting account of himself in any of these roles, appeared in Moss Rose (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1947). He played an aristocratic soul who is suspected of killing a Cockney chorine in Victorian England. He is blackmailed by the dead girl's friend (Peggy Cummins), hounded by a dapper Scotland Yard detective (Vincent Price), but protected by his distinguished mother (Ethel Barrymore). The killer's trademarks, a moss rose and a Bible, are left at the scene of the killing. The Gregory Ratoff-directed feature reaches a high level of suspense, but it cannot compare with Kiss of Death (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1947) which followed.
Within this latter screenplay by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, and under Henry Hathaway's direction, Victor turned in the best acting job of his career. As Nick Bianco, a petty thief, he joins a small gang to rob a jewelry store on Christmas Eve so that his family may have Christmas presents. He is caught and sent to prison with the promise from the assistant District Attorney (Brian Donlevy) of a lighter sentence if he will reveal the names of his accomplices. When Nettie (Coleen Gray), a friend, visits him with the news that his wife has killed herself and that his kids are in an orphanage, he rats on the men and is set free. (The footage with Patricia Morison as Nick's wife was cut before the film's release.) One of the suspects (Richard Widmark) escapes conviction, whereupon he terrorizes Nick, Nettie, and the two children. Nick pleads with him to leave the innocent alone, and sets himself up as bait. He is wounded, but sneering, psychopathic Widmark is caught and convicted.
Widmark, in his screen debut, stole most of the scenes in which he appeared, but as Thomas M. Pryor observed in his New York Times review, "Victor Mature has, if you'll pardon the pun, really matured as an actor.... There is a depth and a mobility to his present role not heretofore noticeable." Time Magazine thought that he "apparently needed nothing all this time but the right kind of role--for once, he has it." If there was any fault to find with Mature's performance as the sensual, animalistic Nick Bianco, it was director Hathaway's persistence in trying to glorify the character's "true" nature, such as when Donlevy's assistant D.A. Di Angelo says of Mature's Nick, "No guy could have kids like that and be a crook."
Victor was cited by the Building and Safety Department of Los Angeles in November, 1947, regarding the zoning requirements of his home. The department charged him with converting his garage into living quarters and building a stairway to a sundeck, both of which were contrary to zoning laws. He claimed that structural alterations were done to provide living space for a buddy from the Coast Guard, Bud Evans and his wife, Ella. The department agreed not to seek a complaint against Victor when he confirmed he would obtain a building permit for a second garage.
Although Victor did not go over to RKO as planned for Dore Schary's Crossfire (1947), with Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum, he did remain at Fox for a Western called Fury at Furnace Creek (1948). This unengaging tale required him to twirl six-shooters and look excessively arrogant while avenging the Apache massacre at Furnace Creek, arranged by three ne'er-do-wells (Albert Dekker, Fred Clark, and Roy Roberts). Coleen Gray was on hand to provide a mild romantic interlude between raids, brawls, and shootings.
While Victor was nearing the completion of his next film, The Law and Martin Rome, he was injured when a piece of heavy machinery that was being transported on the "New York" street set toppled to the ground at his feet. A doctor quickly determined that the toes of one foot were broken. Mature performed his remaining scenes with the cameras focused above his ankles.
In a title change, the film hit the screen as Cry of the City (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1948), with Victor as a New York policeman in pursuit of Martin Rome (Richard Conte), a childhood friend who has murdered a cop. Directed by Robert Siodmak, it is a realistic cops-and-robbers hunt set against the starkness of New York City. Filmed in black and white, it is a page from the theme of Manhattan Melodrama (MGM, 1934). A. Weiler wrote in the New York Times that Victor, "an actor once suspected of limited talents, turns in a thoroughly satisfying job as the sincere and kindly cop." [There were plans to team Victor with his Cry of the City co-star Coleen Gray in yet another remake of Seventh Heaven, but nothing came of this 1948 project.]