Irwin Allen treated his wedding day like a movie production
He spared no expense to wed longtime love Sheila Mathews just before she started appearing on The Waltons.
In 1975, Irwin Allen was at the height of his legendary career.
Nominated for an Oscar for The Towering Inferno, Warner Bros inked a 5-picture deal with him, assuring he’d make millions even if he never made another great movie.
On the cusp of turning 60, Allen decided there was only one thing missing in his life, and he proposed to his longtime girlfriend Sheila Mathews.
Mathews and Allen had dated for 14 years before he popped the question, and throughout their relationship, Allen kept Mathews close by casting her in bit parts in his TV shows and movies.
But when the time came for their wedding day, Allen made sure his bride was the star of the show.
Treating the event with as much enthusiasm as he would his elaborate fantasy and disaster productions, Allen hired the costume designer who worked on all his movies Paul Zastupnevich to make Sheila’s bridal gown out of a special fabric no other bride on earth had ever worn.
A reporter for The Kansas City Times joked, "Knowing Allen, he probably hired 100 nuns in a Belgian convent to weave the material."
Before the big day, Allen was mortified that he first had to endure an equally elaborate stag party, thrown by his very famous friends like Jim Backus, George Burns, Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, and Red Buttons.
These entertainers took to the mic at the fanciest hotel in Beverly Hills to give Allen winking wedding night advice and to tell their best bachelor night jokes.
Allen was the type of guy who shied from this attention, more concerned about the vintage of wine and the fine steak and lobster dinner he served his 200 guests than the many amusements his friends lined up for this over-the-top bachelor night they never expected to come.
Rather than typical bachelor-night activities, Irwin’s friends also hired circus entertainers like a bearded lady and sword swallower, fantastical ways to send Allen off from his long life as a bachelor.
When the stag party ended, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Allen’s marriage to Mathews would last, mainly because he couldn’t endure another stag party like that.
On their wedding day, Mathews walked down the aisle to "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," flanked by more than 450 guests and wearing that gown that set her apart from every bride on this planet.
They said "I do" and Mathews remained by his side until Allen passed away in 1991.
As an actor, Mathews was most often seen in her husband’s TV shows and movies, but the next year after they wed, she took a rare recurring role on The Waltons.
As Fanny Tatum, she ran the phones on Waltons Mountain, known as a gossip who would frequently listen in on everyone’s calls.
Well, here’s some gossip from 1975 that might explain why Irwin and Sheila ended up tying the knot that year.
During the production of The Towering Inferno, there weren’t just flames shooting through the air. There was apparently love in the air, and more couples than Allen and Mathews said they could count got married or engaged while making that movie.
Among those coupling up were the movie’s star Faye Dunaway, a screenwriter and one of the extras playing a fireman.
It seemed that no one was immune to the romantic atmosphere Allen accidentally created onset.
For Irwin and Sheila, the moment they decided to wed came on Valentine’s Day and by February 15, they had joined all the couples around them and got engaged.
Allen may have romantically spared no expense on his special day with Sheila, but he took no credit for all the love around him that year on his movie sets.
"I could put you on and say that these disaster films brought us all closer together," Allen told The San Francisco Examiner in 1974. "But I suspect that everyone would have married anyway, no matter what film they were working on."