Victor Mature

Active - 1939 - 1997  |   Born - Jan 29, 1915   |   Died - Aug 4, 1999   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy

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Biography by AllMovie

The first male film star to be officially labelled a "hunk," Victor Mature was the son of Swiss immigrants. When he arrived in California to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, Mature was so broke that he lived in a pup tent in a vacant lot and subsisted on canned sardines and chocolate bars. There was speculation amongst his fellow students that Mature's spartan lifestyle was deliberately engineered to draw publicity to himself; if so, the ploy worked, and by 1938 he'd been signed to a contract by producer Hal Roach. Mature's first starring film role was as Tumack the caveman in Roach's One Million BC (1940), which enabled the fledgling actor to display his physique without being unduly encumbered by dialogue. While still under contract to Roach, Mature made his Broadway debut in the Moss Hart/Kurt Weill musical Lady in the Dark, playing a musclebound male model. In 1941, Mature was signed by 20th Century-Fox as the "beefcake" counterpart to the studio's "cheesecake" star Betty Grable; the two attractive stars were frequently cast together in Fox musicals, where a lack of clothes was de rigeur. Apparently because of his too-handsome features, the press and fan magazines went out of their way to make Mature look ridiculous and untalented. In truth, he had more good film performances to his credit than one might think: he was excellent as the tubercular Doc Holliday in John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1948), and also registered well in Kiss of Death (1947), Cry of the City (1948), The Egyptian (1954), Betrayed (1954), and Chief Crazy Horse (1955). As the slave Demetrius in The Robe (1953), Mature is more understated and credible than the film's "distinguished" but hopelessly hammy star Richard Burton. Nonetheless, and thanks to such cinematic folderol as Samson and Delilah (1949), Mature was still widely regarded as a lousy actor who survived on the basis of his looks. Rather than fight this ongoing perception, Mature tended to denigrate his own histrionic ability in interviews; later in his career, he hilariously parodied his screen image in such films as After the Fox (1966) and Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976). Semi-retired from acting in the late 1970s, Victor Mature ran a successful television retail shop in Hollywood, although in 1984 he did appear in a TV remake of Samson and Delilah, effectively portraying Samson's father.

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