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Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I was having a good day. I really was. And then I found out that Sinbad had died.

To those of you too young to have seen it on the big screen — I saw it large during a rerelease when I was ten — it's hard to explain just what THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) meant to the kids it dazzled. In every way it may just be the greatest fantasy film of all time, brimming with unbridled imagination and combining magic, monsters, romance and swashbuckling to create the pinnacle of old-school fairy tale cinema. I can hear Jewish Warrior Princess screaming in favor of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940), and while it is a completely fucking excellent movie it falls short of the grandeur found in 7TH VOYAGE. I mean the motherfucker doesn't even steal Bagdad, so it's kind of dishonest.

Kerwin Mathews as Sinbad was not only handsome and personable, he could also immediately shift gears to become a deadly, sword-slinging man of action, fighting when he had to,

but also having enough sense to haul ass away from that humongous carnivorous cyclops.

I'll spare you the long and short of it all, but here's his obit. And, yes, Mathews was gay, lending concrete proof to my theory that he was too good looking to be straight. If you don't believe me, scroll down to the bottom of this post and check out the photo. Seriously, how fucking cool was this guy?

I have plans tonight, but I'd like to see if I can talk a certain young lady into sitting through THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD in lieu of hitting the funeral, whenever that may be.

Anyway, good luck in "the land beyond Beyond," Kerwin. You made a part of my mostly miserable childhood wondrous and exciting, and for that I'll hoist one in your honor.

From the San Francisco Chronicle-

Chuck Squatriglia, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, July 8, 2007

Kerwin Mathews was a devilishly handsome actor once hailed by Variety magazine as "both thoughtful and virile," and he appeared alongside the likes of Kim Novak, Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy during a film career that spanned more than 20 years.

Mr. Mathews is not a household name like Novak, Sinatra and Tracy, but only because too few households watch the swashbuckling adventure movies of the 1950s and '60s. Such films were Mr. Mathews' bread and butter, and he is revered among their devotees for having starred in "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad," which can only be called a classic of the genre and a milestone in the history of cinema. It was released 49 years ago, and not a week has gone by in all those years when Mr. Mathews did not receive a note from a fan.

Mr. Mathews died in his sleep at home in San Francisco sometime Wednesday night or Thursday morning. He was 81.
"He would, until the end, answer every piece of fan mail," said Tom Nicoll, his partner of 46 years. "If the movie was shown somewhere, he would get a flood of fan mail. If his name was in a magazine somewhere, he'd get a flood of fan mail."
Mr. Mathews was born in Seattle and moved to Janesville, Wis., with his mother when she fled a bad marriage. Money was tight, but Mr. Mathews had a knack for acting and earned a scholarship to Beloit (Wis.) College, which was known for its theater program.

After graduating, Mr. Mathews spent a few years teaching high school English in Lake Geneva, Wis., before the stage bug bit again and he went to Hollywood, Mr. Nicoll said. Mr. Mathews had nothing more than an aunt waiting for him there, but he was undeterred. He wanted to act. Hollywood was the place to do it. Mr. Mathews caught a lucky break and landed a gig at the Pasadena Playhouse, a groundbreaking theater that launched many an acting career. He soon caught the attention of an agent with good connections. "He was approached by an agent, who got him an appointment with Harry Cohn at Columbia, the big boss," Nicoll said. "Harry took a liking to him and signed him up." Cohn was the president of Columbia Pictures. He saw a big future for Mr. Mathews and cast him in "5 Against the House," a caper flick about five college kids who rob a casino. It starred Novak and was released in 1955. "The Garment Jungle," another noir film, followed before Mr. Mathews landed the role of Sinbad and cemented his place in cinematic history.

In "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad," Sinbad travels to the island of Colossa to save a beautiful princess. He and his men are confronted by all manner of evil beasts, including marauding cyclopes, fire-breathing dragons and a swashbuckling skeleton.
The film was made for $650,000 in 1958, 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. "Fighting with a nonexistent skeleton wasn't easy," Nicoll said. "They added all of that later."

A war picture with Julie Andrews and a thriller with Ernest Borgnine followed before Mr. Mathews teamed up with Harryhausen again for "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver." The film tells the story of Dr. Lemuel Gulliver, who is thrown overboard during a voyage to India and washes up on Lilliput, an island inhabited by little people who enlist Gulliver in their war against giants larger than he. It was another special effects extravaganza made in an era long before computer animation and movies with nine-figure budgets.

Mr. Mathews soon found himself typecast. For the rest of his career, he appeared mostly in films about pirates, giants, deranged killers and general mayhem. Among the biggest was "The Devil at 4 O'Clock," starring Sinatra and Tracy. It was about a priest and three convicts who save a children's leper colony from a volcano.

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. "It was one of the things he was proudest of," Nicoll said. Perhaps that's because Mr. Mathews, who retired from acting in 1978 because he had grown weary of life in Los Angeles, adored the arts. 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; "Sinbad" and "Gulliver" were on Turner Classic Movies not long ago. 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?"

Mr. Mathews lived alone in San Francisco with his partner, Nicoll, and two cats. Services are pending.


Anonymous said...

My god, he looks like a gay(er) Ben Affleck in that shot.

Calm seas and happy sailings, Captain Sinbad.

Flutterbot said...

I worked at an animal hospital in San Francisco 4 years ago, Kerwin and Tom used to bring their cats there. He was the sweetest man. I was excited the day I found out who he REALLY was!

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to have corresponded with Kerwin in 2002. He sent me several letters and notes and a beautiful card and autograped photo, which I cherish. I was shocked to learn that he passed away. He was a truly beautiful person.

Anonymous said...

Both Flicks "Gulliver" and "The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad" kept me going for years! Every time they came on TV I was Glued! R.I.P. Mr Matthews and my condolences to Mr. Nicoll...

WILLEVY said...

I was born in 1956 in South America and the first time I ever saw the 7th Voyage I must have been 4 or 5. Needless to say... Mr.Cyclops scared the living hell out of me. The 7th Voyage, Gulliver and Jack became my 3 favorite films of all times. They all imprinted that childhood fantasy that was never erased as I write this. KERWIN MATHEWS became my hero. I watched those 3 films over and over throught the years until I've got them on video, then on DVD. September 5, 2007 watched the 7th Voyage once more, watched every extra on the DVD, my partner stopped cold while walking through the living room and said "wow, who is that handsome man". After I finished watching, I went on line to find out about KERWIN, to my surprise he passed away only two months ago, in San Francisco where I reside and he was part of the family.

"I would have invented a whole continent just to meet KERWIN and his partner TOM".

R.I.P Mr.Mathews,.. we will all meet in the land beyond beyond.

Mr.Nicoll, a big hug and my deepest symphaty.


Anonymous said...

Just found out that Kerwin Mathews passed away two months ago. He was a childhood hero of mine and a favorite movie star from the early 60s. About 15 years ago, I was lucky enough to receive several letters from him in reply to my adoring fan letter. I still have his letters locked up in my safety box where I keep all my important papers. Can't even begin to say how many hours I spent thinking about him and the time I spent collecting as many of his movies as I could. My condolences to his partner. I hope his work in film will not be forgotten.

Patricia "Rici" Mims

Anonymous said...

All My Sympathies go out to you Mr. Nicoll. I was very saddened at Kerwin Mathews passing. His movies entertained me as a child and will be forever preserved in my movie collection, thanks to DVDs. I still watch his movies to this day. Now to find out he was "Family" only makes me feel closer to him.
Thank You;

Anonymous said...

R I P Mr Mathews I enjoy your sinbad movie and also The Boy who Cried Werewolf I watch them over you will be missed.

Anonymous said...

I always thought about Thrilling childhood memories of a movie called "Jack the Giant Killer",Starring Kerwin Mathews. Only recently, I acquired a complete movie collection of Kerwin's fantasy movies. Excitedly, I watched it again, and although it had lost the same thrill and fear it gave me at 6, I studied the actor. One could tell he was intelligent, kind, astute, and sensitive. And it sounds like he touched peoples lives the way we should. It saddens me we live in a world where people are wrongly judged because of our small differences. I wish I could have known this kind man I am a heterosexual Christian. Contrary to what "religious" people preach, GOD teaches us to LOVE everyone, as he does, and judge no one. I know I would have loved both Kerwin and Tom. Rest in peace, an thank you for your contribution in this world.

Gary Gopaul said...

Your movies still haunt me in the most beautiful way Kerwin. RIP. I've met Harryhausen - just wished that I'd met you too. Sleep well. My sincere condolences Tom - Don't worry man - you'll see him again - remember - we're all jus' passin' thru. Gary.


Mr. Nicoll,
Out of the blue today the name Kerwin Mathews came to my head and I decided to check the net. I was so befallen upon hearing that he had passed. You have my sincerest sympathies for your loss and the world's loss for the most heroic Sinbad that ever came to be. My father had taken me to see 'The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad' when I was seven. I have never lost the thrill and amazement to this day of that movie. Thirty seven years ago I had taken my present wife to see it in a movie theater. She'd never been so blasted away at the silver screen as she was seeing that. Despite my knowledge of how the effects were done I still watch it on DVD because I had to own still hasn't lost its magic for me. I would have thrilled to have ever had the chance to meet Mr. Mathews, but the closest I got was meeting Ray Harryhausen himself. I don't mean to be disrespectful, because I don't know who to write to but could I acquire a picture of Captain Sinbad...which can only be autographed by you but with his initials on it. Please e-mail me at '' and I will submit my address to you. I understand if you can't comply. May Mr. Mathews find peace in the world past hope and fears.


Mr. Addis Valentine

Anonymous said...

Mathews WAS "Sinbad". The film for an 8 year old until now was "astonishing" in its story, special effects and MUSIC by Bernard Herrmann. He played the role with modest self effacement which it turned out to be just what this film needed. I saw the film when it opened in 1958 at the Roxy in New York and am still "enchanted" by the posters, lobby cards and images the film created for a youngster. I wish I could have wrote Mathews, having just realized he died a few years ago.