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.

The Everett Collection

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."

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Mike 18 months ago
Fun Fact:
Did you ever notice how Irwin Allen's disaster movies always got Oscar nominations for costume design?
The Academy usually assingned that award to some newcomer actor who'd never done the award show before.
Irwin Allen's regular costume designer, as noted above, was Paul Zastupnevich, known to Allen's cast and crew as "Paul Z".
The producers just got a kick out of seeing a newbie actor kid confronted by "Zastupnevich" on the nomination card.
Runeshaper 28 months ago
Irwin Allen sounds like a good dude that really took care of his woman (-:
DeborahRoberts 29 months ago
With the makeup she wore, I never realized that was Sheila Mathews playing Fanny Tatum on "The Waltons." Knew she was married to Allen and remembered her for the small roles she had in "The Towering Inferno" (the mayor's wife) and "The Poseidon Adventure" (ship's nurse).
denny 29 months ago
Every stag party needs a sword swallower. A bearded lady? I guess it depends on who's getting married.
MarkSpeck 29 months ago
No surprise that a 'go big or go home' guy like Irwin Allen would also apply that philosophy to his own wedding!
Michael 29 months ago
Rather than the Walton angle, which I admit was probably her most visible role, why not list her Irwin Allen roles?
LoveMETV22 Michael 29 months ago
Not really seeing a Walton's angle to the story. A few sentences or a mention maybe. More a story about Irwin Allen and Sheila Mathews Wedding day and the time around it. I guess it's how you view it. There is a link in the story :
"Mathews was most often seen in her husband’s TV shows and movies" that takes you to more of the shows she appeared in. Thanks MeTV for the additional link.
KMT6600 29 months ago
She was in another show Lost In space & I liked her in that show also
ETristanBooth 29 months ago
"a special fabric no other bride on earth had ever worn"
"wearing that gown that set her apart from every bride on this planet"

So what was the fabric?
LoveMETV22 ETristanBooth 29 months ago
No kidding I did a search, couldn't find a mention of it, (Not to say, It's not somewhere)? LOL
Michael ETristanBooth 29 months ago
Leftover fabric from his tv show costumes?
I was wondering that too. 🤔
No idea. But knowing Zastupnevitch, he probably dyed a pair of sneakers to match.
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