“Hey, aren’t you ….?”

March 8, 2009

U1078577The man mixing it up with Carl Malden in this  photo is George Mathews, whose face was as familiar as the next door neighbor for almost three decades. Mathews appeared in nearly 60 properties – mostly television, including many of the major series. He made himself immortal, in a way, when he played Harvey, the tough guy Ralph Kramden – with a lot of help from Ed Norton – challenges to a fight after a poolroom argument in “The Honeymooners.” I don’t know how much stage experience he had, but in this photo he is appearing with Paul Newman, Malden, Patricia Peardon, and George Grizzard in a 1951 Broadway production of “The Desperate Hours.” We saw George Mathews last night when we watched “Pat and Mike,” one of the seven movies costarring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Mathews, as always, played a heavy – one of a trio of thugs trying to pressure Hepburn, through Tracy, to throw a golf tournament. George Cukor had the three thugs play it for laughs, and Mathews contributed at least his share. He appeared on “Death Valley Days,” “The Phil Silvers Show,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Gunsmoke,” and “The Untouchables,” among many other programs, and his movies included “The Man with the Golden Arm.” Mathews, who died in 1984, was the quintessential actor that everyone recognizes but no one can name. On the Internet, at least, it seems impossible to find out anything about the man beyond the dates and places of his birth and death and the list of his television and movie appearances. In death as in life, he is The Unknown.

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