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James Mason Edit Profile

actor , Producer , screenwriter

James Mason was a British actor, producer and screenwriter.

Background

Mason, James was born on May 15, 1909 in Huddersfield, England. Son of John and Mabel Hattersley (Gaunt) Mason.

Education

Trained as an architect, he had a few years on the stage before becoming the most stylish leading man in British films. He attended the University of Cambridge.

Career

He made his debut in Late Extra (35, Albert Parker) and plaved in Twice Branded (36, Maclean Rogers); Troubled Waters (36, Parker); Prison Breaker (36. Adrian Brunei); Secret of Stamboul (36, Andrew Marion); The Mill on the Floss (37, Tim Whelan); Fire Over England (37, William K. Howard); The High Command (37, Thorold Dickinson); Catch as Catch Can (37, Roy Kellino, brother of Pamela, Mason’s wife, 1941-64); and I Met a Murderer (39, Kellino), which M ason also wrote and produced.

But he really came to the fore during the war years in a run of films where he brought a unique sensuality to polite arrogance. The blend of Yorkshire and trans-Atlantic drawl was very musical, and arguably there has never been a sexier Englishman in British films, especially when opposite Margaret Lockwood: Hatter's Castle (41, Lance Comfort); The Night Has Eyes (42, Leslie Arliss); The Man in Grey (43, Arliss); Fanny by Gaslight (44, Anthony Asquith); The Wicked Lady (45, Arliss); treating Ann Todd with hostile relish in Compton Bennetts The Seventh Veil (45).

His best performance, however, was in Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out (47), and it was no surprise when Mason decided he deserved better things and left for Hollvwood. He claimed that he never became a star in America, and it is true that few films prospered on his appeal alone. But his contribution was many-sided. He was always an attractive villain, whether in kids’ stuff, as Rupert of Hentz.au in The Prisoner of Zenda (52. Richard Thorpe), Prince Valiant (54, Henry Hathaway), and Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (54, Richard Fleischer), or at the more sophisticated level of Hitchcocks North by Northwest (59) in which he harks back to the chauvinism of the Leslie Arliss films.

He played Rommel in two dull movies: Deseii Fox (51, Hathaway) and The Deseii Rats (53, Robert Wise). He was Flaubert in Minnellis Madame Bovary (49) and Brutus in Manldewiczs Julius Caesar (53), if a little too suave in both cases. But he was masterly as the butler spy in Manldewiczs Five Fingers (52), the best support Judy Garland ever had in A Star Is Born (54, George Cukor), and outstanding on the edge of a crack-up in Bigger Than Life (56, Nicholas Ray), a film Mason also produced.

Indeed, he was always ready to encourage and boost films that might not have been made, or been as successful, without him. Soon after he arrived in Hollvwood, he befriended Max Ophuls and played in Caught (48) and The Reckless Moment (49), magnificent films that also showed the generosity and the weakness he could deliver as an actor. In 1951. he went along with the high camp of Albert Lewin’s Pandora and the Flying Dutchman: in 1953 lie appeared in Carol Reed’s The Man Between: he lent class to Andrew Stone’s Cry Terror (58) and The Decks Ran Bed (58), to Henry Levin’s Journey to the Center oj the Earth (59) while he committed himself to such worthwhile ventures as Leslie Stevens’s Hero's Island (62) and Michael Powell’s Age of Consent (69).

His Humbert in Kubrick’s Lolita (62) was worthy of that idealist : it caught the sweet, tricky voice of the book. He pursued character parts, often with great success—The Trials of Oscar Wilde (60, Ken Hughes); The Fall of the Roman Empire (64, Anthony Mann); The Pumpkin Eater (64, Jack Clayton); Lord Iim (65, Richard Brooks)—but sometimes less happily: infatuated with Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl (65, Silvio Narizzano); as a supercilious Hun in The Bine Max (66, John Guillermin); The Deadly Affair (67, Sidney Lumet); Duffy (6S, Robert Parrish); Spring and Port Wine 169. Peter Hammond); Mayerling (69, Terence Young); Kill (71, Romain Gary); Child's Play (72, Sidney Lumet); The Mackintosh Mail (73, John Huston); Frankenstein: The True Story (73, Jack Smight); The Marseilles Contract (74, Parrish); The Autobiography of a Princess (75, James Ivory); a Southern gentleman in Mandingo (75, Richard Fleischer); Inside Out (75, Peter Duffell); Magwich in Great Expectations (75, Joseph Hardy); Voyage of the Damned (76, Stuart Rosenberg); a disenchanted commander in Cross of Iron (77, Sam Peckinpah); Mr. Jordan in Heaven Can Wait (78, Buck Henry and Warren Beatty). He was a smooth Nazi in The Boys from Brazil (78, Franklin Schaffner); Dr. Watson in Murder by Decree (78, Robert Clarke); The Passage (78, J. Lee Thompson); and The Water Babies (79, Lionel Jeffries).

Beyond the age of seventy, Mason was at the mercy of the business—yet until the end he was capable of lovely things, especially if they called for a silken faintly malign intelligence: Bloodline (79, Young); the antique dealer in Salem's Lot (79, Tobe Hooper); ffolkes (80, Andrew McLaglen); A Dangerous Summer (81, Quentin Masters); Evil Under the Sun (82, Guy Hamilton); as Isaac of York on TV in Ivanhoe (82, Douglas Camfield); as the master lawyer in The Verdict (82, Lumet); as Dr. Fischer of Geneva (83, Michael Lindsay- Hogg); Yelloivbeard (83, Mel Damsld); The Shooting Party (84, Alan Bridges); A.D. (84, Stuart Cooper); and The Assisi Underground (85, Alexander Ramati).

Personality

Talent, intelligence, versatility, independence, and enteiprise made Mason’s career remarkable.

Connections

Married Pamela Kellino, February 1941 (divorced). Children: Portland Allen, Alexander Morgan. Married Clarissa Kaye, 1971.

father:
John Mason

mother:
Mabel Hattersley (Gaunt) Mason

spouses:
Pamela Kellino

Clarissa Kaye

children:
Portland Allen Mason

Alexander Morgan Mason