Actor Victor Mature was born January 29, 1913, in Louisville, Kentucky.
What looks to be a fine new book on the actor, THE FILMS OF VICTOR MATURE, has been published to coincide with the centennial of Mature's birth. It was preordered for me as a Christmas gift and just arrived a few days ago.
This softcover book by James McKay, which is over 200 pages including an index, is an excellent read thus far. It starts with a short biography and then details each of Mature's films, with production information, an analysis of Mature's performance, and information on how the film was received upon its release. Many -- but not all -- of the films are accompanied by a well-reproduced still. From a quick scan, the author's opinions of Mature's films and performances largely coincide with mine.
It's funny to think that years ago I didn't really like Mature all that much; maybe it's because the first films I saw him in as a child were musicals, MY GAL SAL (1942) and MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID (1952), and at the time he struck me as a bit awkward being the leading man in a musical. Little did I know then that he had appeared in the original Broadway cast of LADY IN THE DARK! And though he wasn't known for his musical talent, he appeared in several other musicals over the course of his career, including NO, NO, NANETTE (1940), FOOTLIGHT SERENADE (1942), and WABASH AVENUE (1950), among others.
In recent years Mature has become a real favorite of mine, appearing in some of the film noir titles I've enjoyed the most, I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941), KISS OF DEATH (1947), and CRY OF THE CITY (1948), not to mention a much-loved Betty Grable musical, SONG OF THE ISLANDS (1942).
His relatively little-known Western ESCORT WEST (1958) was an unsung pleasure I look forward to watching again, and the football drama EASY LIVING (1949) was a favorite discovery last year. I also got a big kick out of the somewhat cartoonish but highly entertaining DANGEROUS MISSION (1954).
And I haven't yet mentioned his very fine Doc Holliday in John Ford's MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946)!
A list of just some of Mature's additional well-known films: ONE MILLION B.C. (1940), THE SHANGHAI GESTURE (1941), MOSS ROSE (1947), FURY AT FURNACE CREEK (1948), SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949), THE LAS VEGAS STORY (1952), THE ROBE (1953), DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954), THE EGYPTIAN (1954), and CHIEF CRAZY HORSE (1955). He had a terrific career filled with entertaining movies.
Mature never took himself seriously; there's a well-known anecdote that when a country club told him they didn't accept actors as members, he replied that he was no actor and had the reviews to prove it. The truth, however, is that Mature was a very fine, underrated actor who seems to be more appreciated in recent years. He was capable of conveying a great deal simply with his soulful eyes and his body language. KISS OF DEATH, in particular, would not be the superb movie it is without Mature's contribution. (He's seen at the right in a publicity still with costar Coleen Gray.)
Mature was smart with his money and worked infrequently after the early '60s. He enjoyed relaxing on the golf course and became a father for the first time when he was in his early 60s.
Victor Mature passed away in Rancho Sante Fe, California, on August 4, 1999. He was 86 years old.
Update: Additional reviews: THE LAS VEGAS STORY (1952), THE LAST FRONTIER (1955), and THE LONG HAUL (1957).