(Courtesy of the Mathis Family)
Jack Mathis - mid 1970s photo.
|Remembering Jack Mathis|
|May, 2006 update from Jack's daughter, Jana Mathis: while the Mathis Family would love to see Republic Confidential, Volume 3 completed, there are no plans at this time to do such. Soon after her Dad's passing, the remainder of his Republic files and research material, including reference information related to Volume 3, were moved to the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University. (See link at the bottom of this page for more information on the "Mathis Papers and Collection" at Brigham Young University.)|
|Friend, author, and Republic studios expert John David "Jack" Mathis passed away on Thursday, October 13, 2005, at his South Barrington, Illinois home. He was 73.
Mid-October in Indiana and the Chicago area was cool and the trees were starting to shed their leaves. I was having one of my several morning cups of coffee and reading the Chicago Tribune ... and I gasped when I read the news about Jack's passing.
Jack and I go back twenty-five years. We first connected in 1980 when I was in my late thirties and working in Chicago. He had already published Valley Of The Cliffhangers (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1975), THE definitive reference book on the 66 serials of Republic Pictures. And he was working on several follow-up volumes to further chronicle Republic Pictures. I was doing some western and videotape writing for several publications, and Jack asked if I could track down some full-length westerns. I even found a few for him. One task that I was never able to fulfill was locating anything better than the Spanish sub-titled versions of THE LONE RANGER and THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN serials.
I've lived in Indiana for decades and Jack was born and raised in LaPorte, Indiana. We swapped a few memories and stories about the Hoosier State. In one of our early conversations, I asked "what does Jack Mathis Advertising do?" and learned about his involvement with the Chicago Bulls, the Jamaco Saints AAU basketball team, his love for basketball, more.
Jack was a multi-tasker. He was prepping several follow up volumes on Republic Studios, and that included the last which he would title Republic Confidential - Volume 3 - The Films. I know because in the early to mid 1980s, I wound up doing "Jack Mathis style writeups" on a hundred or so Republic westerns - i.e., consolidate and "Mathis style" the film and plot detail into about 3000 characters in length. That was done long before e-mails - so I'd look at a video and do a synopsis. Then I would send it off via US Mail, Jack would critique and mail back his suggestions and fixes. Took a while to get his style down pat. But once learned, off I went doing writeups for him. For those of you who like my Old Corral website, give a thanks to Jack Mathis for he taught me more about writing than I ever learned in school.
Jack invited me to his home for several annual film showings. At the time, he and his family lived in Libertyville, Illinois. In attendance was one other person - serial expert Jim Shoenberger who resided in Chicago. Sitting and chatting with these two, I was a bit awe struck.
My memory has grown a bit fuzzy - but I remember the living room or screening room - it was huge. I vaguely recall that the seating area was a step or two down from the main floor. At one end was a screen, and the other end was a 16mm projector behind some doors or in an enclosure. During one of those great evenings, Jack showed a cliffhanger episode of "Canadian Mountie Allan Lane about to be buzz-sawed". For those serial fans who might remember, I tried to put together a proposal in the 1980s to get Jack's KING OF THE MOUNTIES and KING OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED cliffhangers onto videotape. That venture failed because we couldn't obtain enough financial support (though several recent efforts did succeed in bringing these lost serials to videotape and DVD). My work on getting the King serials onto videotape began when Jack showed that serial episode to Jim and I.
I was very appreciative of Jack's initial invite as well as subsequent "Mathis film fests" over the next few years. Seeing chapters from the KING serial and other Republic films on a big screen was absolutely great. Change great to stupendous.
His series of books on Republic Pictures was a labor of love ... absolutely stunning in quality and depth, and written in that unique Mathis style. For that, we should all be grateful.
Over the past quarter of a century, Jack and I talked sporadically - sometimes often and sometimes a bunch of months would go by without us connecting. Our last conversations were in the Spring and early Summer, 2005 when I was researching western and serial heavy Roger Williams. I telephoned, and as usual, Jack answered. He poured out his recollections on Williams who worked in a dozen or so Republic films in the late 1930s. Jack said if I needed more help, call him back. He was like that - always helpful - always available - always willing to share his thoughts and archives with those of us delving into B-western and serial minutiae. He was also busily working on the final volume of his Republic Confidential triology, Republic Confidential - Volume 3 - The Films, and had completed 453 of the projected 500+ pages.
I loved Jack's voice - it was clear and deep and resonant. And in later years when I telephoned him for help or guidance, I'd always open with "aaaah ... there's that great voice". And Jack would chuckle.
I already miss that man, that voice, that chuckle. He certainly had an impact on me, and for that, I'm thankful.
Sympathies to Jack's wife Dene, daughter Jana and son Kane.
|"... Jack was always ready to do someone a favor, no matter how much digging, research or time it might cost him. He was the best friend Republic ever had."|
Boyd Magers, October 27, 2005
|The Jack Mathis Books:|
Valley Of The Cliffhangers (published 1975)
Republic Confidential - Volume 2 - The Players (published 1992)
Valley Of The Cliffhangers Supplement (published 1995)
Republic Confidential - Volume 1 - The Studio (published 1999)
Republic Confidential - Volume 3 - The Films (unfinished - Jack was still writing)
Several years ago, Jack donated one or more copies of his books as well as his files, films, videos, audio tapes, etc. to Brigham Young University. More information is available at the BYU website which notes that the Mathis collection on Republic Pictures consists of 135 boxes and consumes about 600 linear feet of storage space. The following link will take you to the special collections page at the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University: http://sc.lib.byu.edu/
In the keyword search box at the top of the page, type:
and click on the search button.
You should find the MSS 2389 Papers, ca. 1935-2000, Mathis, Jack. Click on the "Details" button for info on the collection.
If you're unable to locate the Mathis collection, this link may work: http://catalog.lib.byu.edu/uhtbin/pcnum/3112616
(In addition to the Mathis collection, the library is also home to the extensive Republic Pictures Music Archives, as well as various other Hollywood personality and movie archives.)
The official Gene Autry website includes a tribute to Jack: http://www.autry.com/news/2005/johnmathis.html
The Chicago Tribune newspaper has an obituary on Jack: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2005-10-17-0510170062-story.html