Obituary continued"'The Garment Jungle, [Tom Nicoll continued] another noir film, followed before Mr. Mathews landed the lead in Sinbad and his place in cinematic history.
"'The film was made for $650,000 in 1958 [approximately $5.3 million in 2015 dollars162], but remains a showcase of dazzling special effects by Ray Harryhausen and a touchstone among practitioners and devotees of filmmaking special effects. Among its most famous sequences is a sword fight between Mr. Mathews and a skeleton; the skeleton was an elaborate model painstakingly filmed frame by frame in a process called stop-motion animation.
"'...Mathews soon found himself typecast. For the rest of his career, he appeared mostly in films about pirates, giants, deranged killers, and general mayhem.
"'Mr. Mathews did a lot of acting work in Europe, and he starred in several Disney TV movies. Among them was The Waltz King, an animated biography of Johann Strauss Jr., in which Mr. Mathews portrayed the famous composer. 'It was his favorite role,' Nicoll said.
"'He moved to San Francisco, where he sold antiques for a time and was a devoted fan of the city's opera, symphony, and ballet.
"'His movies—he made 32 in all—still run on television from time to time...As usual, they generated more fan mail, which Mr. Mathews happily answered. He never minded that most of his movies have long been forgotten and those that endure are considered campy cult classics.
"'All that mattered was that he was an actor and spent 20 years doing something he loved. 'A little kid from the Midwest was in all these big movies,' Nicoll said. 'What's not to like?'" 163
Purely by chance, I came upon an unexpected insight into Mathews while researching the Hitching Post, the name the Apollo was given in 1946 (more later).
It was a few columns to the left of a story about a live performance at the theater of the George S. Kaufmann comedy Duley, "the first of the eight plays they [Valentine Players] will present in Janesville this summer."164
The surprise was a Gazette feature from June, 1950, called "Social Spotlight" that announced the engagement of a Beloit woman named Muriel Nelson to Mathews.165
"A beautiful man"Nelson appeared in performances with Mathews in the late 1940s at Beloit College's Court Theater. More than a half century later, she was contacted by Beloit Daily News Reporter Julie Becker who wrote a remembrance upon the actor's death in 2007:
"For Beloit resident Muriel (Nelson) Clifton, it wasn't Mathews' 20-year career that followed in Hollywood that had her enamored. Although Clifton admits she followed some of his work during the early years of his career, she remembers him more for the plays she acted in with him during the early 1950s, under the direction of Court Theatre's Kirk Denmark." 166
No hint of the engagement appears in the elderly Nelson's wistful recollection of that long-ago time just after World War II:
"[She] starred opposite Mathews in [Beloit College] plays including The Devil, Romeo and Juliet, and Hippolytus," Becker wrote, "and recalled a bit tearfully the memories they shared while poring over old photographs Friday. 'Kerwin was a beautiful man—he had dark, dark lashes and beautiful teeth,' she said softly running her thin fingers over a publicity shot featuring Mathews, herself, and other actors in the Court Theatre."167
The Rock County Register of Deeds has no record of a marriage.
The above is one of three shots taken when the cast was rehearsing Beloit College's production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale in 1947 (one of the photos has a dated note on the back). Muriel Nelson, the woman he was engaged to, is kneeling to his left. Mathews remained in touch with Beloit College's Professor Denmark who attended the special showing of Sin-
bad at the Jeffris in 1958. Beloit archivist Fred Burwell pointed out
that Jacqueline Witte, supine to Mathews' left, was Paul Newman's
first wife. They married in 1949 and had three children.168
Marcia Mott, originally from Rockford, was living in
Massachusetts when she died in 2013.169
Retired in San Francisco.
Mathews said The Waltz King, a biography of Johann Strauss,
was his favorite role even though he termed it
"highly fictionalized" in an interview with
WCLO talk show host Ken
Click for larger image.
He was nearing 38 when Disney's made-for-TV
movie about the composer was released
toward the end of 1963.
Click and scroll for larger image.
In October, 2007, the City of Janesville, proud of Mathews, renamed a
street in his honor. Kerwin Mathews Court fronts the south end of the
building at 408 South Main Street that once housed the high school
where he gained his first formal acting experience.
ŠTed Schaar 2015
Click for larger image.