Vintage Hunk: Victor Mature

By: Mike McCrann

Victor Mature was a popular movie star for almost two decades. In the 1940s, at 20th Century Fox, Mature co-starred with Betty Grable, and a number of top stars. Mature ended the decade with the biggest hit of his career playing the title role in Cecil B. Demille's Samson and Delilah. Never considered much of an actor, Victor Mature gave excellent performances in several great film noirs Kiss of Death and Cry of the City and also was wonderful in John Ford's epic Western My Darling Clementine.

Victor John Mature was born in Kentucky to an Italian father whose last name Maturi was simplified and Americanized to Mature when young Victor started his acting career. Discovered at the Pasadena Playhouse, Victor Mature's first leading role was in the campy One Million B.C. where his toned muscles were much more prominent than any acting ability. A contract with 20th Century Fox followed and he went on to co-star with Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth in several hit films. After a stint with the Coast Guard, Mature returned to Hollywood in 1945 and was chosen by John Ford to play Doc Holliday opposite Henry Fonda and Linda Darnell in My Darling Clementine. Mature gave the film's best performance as the doomed doc.

Victor Mature followed this hit with his best work in Kiss of Death and Cry of the City. These two splendid noirs gave Mature the best reviews of his career.

Years later Pauline Kael wrote of his work in Kiss of Death: "Victor Mature gives an unexpectedly subdued convincing performance." For Cry of the City, The New York Times applauded the actor stating: "Victor Mature, an actor once suspected of limited talents, turns in a thoroughly satisfying job."

Samson and Delilah and its stars Mature and Hedy Lamarr were roasted by the critics, but the film was the year's biggest moneymaker. Victor Mature went on to a number of other epics including The Robe, the smash hit film that has the distinction of being the first film made in Cinemascope.

Victor Mature worked steadily for the rest of the 50s with co-stars as varied as Esther Williams and Susan Hayward. After a 5 year retirement Mature came back to parody himself amusingly in After The Fox and even more hysterically in the Monkees movie - Head where he played The Big Victor.

Victor Mature died in 1999 at the age of 86. He had 5 wives and was linked to many of the film beauties of his era. David Thomson best summed up Victor Mature in his book Biographical Dictionary of Film: "He is a strong man in a land of hundred pound weaklings, an incredible concoction of beefsteak, husky voice and brillianitne - a barely concealed sexual advertisement for soiled goods."