Mathews was born in Seattle, Washington and was two years old when he moved with his divorced mother to Janesville, Wisconsin. He attended Janesville High School, graduating in 1943. Mathews said that "a kind high school teacher put me in a play, and that changed my life." According to a classmate, he was a "handsome rascal".
After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he attended and performed at nearby Milton College for two years before transferring to Beloit College on drama and music scholarships. He remained at Beloit three years after graduation teaching speech and dramatic arts and appeared in regional theater. He also taught high school English in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1954, Mathews acted at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he met the head of casting for Columbia Pictures, leading to a seven-year studio contract. He appeared in several action/adventure and fantasy films of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Although he felt typecast, he "looked fondly" on his Hollywood career, with his favorite role being Johann Strauss, Jr. in the Disney two-part telefilm The Waltz King (1963). Matthews played Jean Bruce's OSS 117 in two French films and played The Viscount based on another hero written by Bruce.
Kerwin Mathews (©17)
Kerwin Mathews was an American actor best known for playing the titular heroes in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Three Worlds of Gulliver and Jack the Giant Killer. He retired from acting in 1978 and moved to San Francisco, where he ran a clothing and antiques shop. He died in his sleep in San Francisco at the age of 81, survived by his partner of 46 years, Tom Nicoll. The City of Janesville subsequently renamed a 1block street adjacent to the former Janesville High School "Kerwin Mathews Court".
The tall, dark-haired Mathews was a Columbia Pictures contract player when he was cast as the lead in "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad," which featured stop-motion animated creatures created by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen.
"He was very good in it," Harryhausen said from his home in London. "I get a lot of fan mail saying they think he was the best Sinbad. We've had three or four different Sinbads."
Science fiction and fantasy film expert Tom Weaver said that "as an actor in the 1950s, Kerwin Mathews came across as the all-American, farm-boy-next-door type -- as unlikely a candidate to play an Arabian Nights hero as could possibly be imagined. But for young American monster movies fans, that made him the perfect identification figure, and he became our favorite hero in that fairy-tale-monster genre."
"Part of the challenge of appearing in those stop-motion monster movies was having to act opposite nothing -- to cower in front of a giant that's not there, to sword-fight a skeleton that's not there. All the monsters were added later by Ray Harryhausen."
If Mathews had not been able to "interact with nothing" as well as he did, Weaver said, "the monsters would not have been believable, despite all of Harryhausen's painstaking efforts. But Mathews did a fabulous job, which went a long ways toward 'selling' those scenes."
Harryhausen praised Mathews' ability to maintain the illusion that he was battling the skeleton and other creatures. "His eyes were always concentrated" on the unseen subject, he said.
Mathews also appeared in "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" (1960), with stop-motion special effects by Harryhausen, and "Jack the Giant Killer" (1962), with stop-motion effects by Projects Unlimited.
In a 1987 interview with Starlog magazine, Mathews said that filming the famous sword fight with the skeleton in "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad," a low-budget film shot in Spain, was "an exciting experience for me."
"I believed I was making as valid a contribution to the world of theater as if I had been playing Hamlet," he said. "We shot that sword fight in a cave in Majorca. We started filming one night at sundown and worked straight through for 24 hours, because they could only afford the cave for one night."
In a 1989 Starlog interview, "Sinbad" director Nathan Juran said Mathews never complained.
"When we finally finished the sequence, I noticed that his sword hand was covered with blood," Juran said. "He had worked so hard that he had scraped off the skin on that hand. I marveled that he did all that sword fighting and never said a word about the pain he was in. Kerwin was the epitome of a professional. He gave a hell of a performance."
An only child, Mathews was born in Seattle on Jan. 8, 1926. Shortly thereafter, he and his divorced mother moved to Janesville, Wis.
In high school, Mathews recalled in the 1987 interview, "a kind high school teacher put me in a play, and that changed my life."
After two years in the Army Air Forces during World War II, he attended Beloit (Wis.) College on drama and music scholarships.
He stayed at Beloit three years after graduating and taught speech and dramatic arts, and also appeared in regional theater.
He also taught high school English in Lake Geneva, Wis., before moving to Hollywood in 1954.
Mathews was an actor at the Pasadena Playhouse when he met the head of casting for Columbia Pictures and was signed to a seven-year studio contract.
Among his other film credits are "The Devil at 4 O'Clock," "Man on a String," "Pirates of Blood River," "Battle Beneath the Earth," "Octaman," "The Boy Who Cried Werewolf" and "Nightmare in Blood."
His favorite role was starring as composer Johann Strauss Jr. in "The Waltz King," a 1963 two-part segment of "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" that was filmed on location in Europe.
Mathews, who moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s, spent his post-acting career selling antiques and furniture.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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