Victor John Mature was born on January 29, 1913 in Louisville, Kentucky. His father was an Italian immigrant and his mother was a native Kentuckian. As a young man Mature came west and studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. While a struggling student, he lived for a time in a pup tent in a vacant lot. His dedication paid off, and he was discovered on stage in Pasadena. Signed for the movies, his first film role was a hunky caveman in One Million B.C. (1940).
After serving on troop transport ships in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, Mature resumed acting and became one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1940s and 50s. Through those years he appeared in musicals, comedies, westerns, crime dramas and, of course, biblical epics. In My Darling Clementine (1946) Mature was the tuberculosis-ridden Doc Holliday, teaming up with the Earp brothers in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
In the film noir genre, he played a petty criminal in Kiss of Death (1947) and a detective in Cry of the City (1948). Best known for muscling through ancient history, Mature was the original strongman in Cecil B. DeMille’s epic Samson and Delilah (1949). He followed up in a similar vein with The Robe (1953), Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954) and The Egyptian (1954). Along the way, Mature starred opposite leading ladies such as Hedy Lamarr, Jean Simmons and Esther Williams.
By the mid-1960s, his career took a wry turn as he played a parody of himself in After the Fox (1966). He even turned in a cameo in the Monkees’ feature film, Head (1968). In 1977 Mature played a doctor, aptly named Doc Holliday, in an episode of the TV series M*A*S*H*. He wrapped up his career in a 1984 TV remake of Samson and Delilah, this time playing Samson’s father.
Victor Mature was self-deprecating about his acting skills. An avid golfer, he was turned down by the prestigious Los Angeles Country Club because the joint was too swank to admit actors at that time. Mature was quoted as protesting, “I’m not an actor, and I’ve got 64 films to prove it.”
Not so fast. Critics today admire Mature’s excellent portrayals in films such as My Darling Clementine and Kiss of Death.
Ultimately settling in the golfing haven of Rancho Santa Fe, Victor Mature died in his home here on August 4, 1999. His widow, Laretta Mature, still lives in The Ranch.