• 10 October 1911
  •  New York City, New York, USA

George Mathews


Burly, craggy-faced tough guy actor George Mathews was brought up in Manhattan and educated in Brooklyn. He had an extensive career on stage, which began in the early 1930s, after he failed to get a job with the US Post Office. Instead, he joined the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Theatre Program, a government agency that provided jobs for the unemployed on public works projects during the Depression. He first appeared on Broadway in the key role of Dynamite Jim in "Processional" (1937). With his broad face, strong eyebrows, gravelly voice and jutting lower lip, Mathews was invariably cast as heavies or hard-as-nails military types. He appeared to great effect on stage in 1942-43 as Sgt. Ruby in "The Eve of St. Mark" on Broadway, and repeated his role in the film version (The Eve of St. Mark (1944)), a perfect showcase for his screen personae. Not just a one-note "plug ugly", he was equally as effective at portraying comic toughs, which he did in Pat and Mike (1952), becoming the recipient of some judo action meted out by Katharine Hepburn; and the Garson Kanin-directed musical comedy 'Do Re Mi' (1960-62), as Fatso O'Rear, starring Phil Silvers. Mathews also acted in classical plays like "Antigone" (1946, as a guard) with Cedric Hardwicke and played Mitch in "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1949-50), going on tour with fellow cast members Uta Hagen and Anthony Quinn. This performance garnered some critical accolades from Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times. In 1950, he joined Tyrone Power in a sell-out London production of "Mister Roberts" at the Coliseum Theatre, playing the role of the captain. In films, he was notable as the gambler Williams in the powerhouse drama The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and as the sadistic Sheriff Bull Harper in the colorful western The Last Wagon (1956). Mathews also had a recurring role in the TV comedy series Glynis (1963), playing ex-cop Chick Rogers who aids and abets mystery writer and amateur sleuth Glynis Johns in solving a string of "whodunnits". In private life, Mathews was the antithesis of the ruffians he often portrayed on screen: amicable and intelligent. Outside of his profession, he was an avid chess player and often participated in international tournaments. He retired from the acting profession in 1972 and died in South Carolina in November 1984.