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James Mason

Best know for his roles in Lolita, North by Northwest, Heaven Can Wait and The Boys from Brazil.



Late Extra

Fighting Shadows



Twice Branded

Prison Breaker

Troubled Waters

Blind Man’s Bluff

Secret of Stamboul

The Mill on the Floss



Fire Over England

The High Command

Catch As Catch Can

Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel



I Met a Murderer



This Man Is Dangerous (released in the U.S. as The Patient Vanishes)



Hatter’s Castle

The Night Has Eyes (released in the U.S. as Terror House)


Secret Mission

Thunder Rock



The Bells Go Down

The Man in Grey

They Met in the Dark



Candlelight in Algeria

Fanny by Gaslight (released in the U.S. as Man of Evil)

Hotel Reserve



A Place of One’s Own

They Were Sisters

The Seventh Veil

The Wicked Lady



Odd Man Out

The Upturned Glass




Madame Bovary

The Reckless Moment

East Side, West Side



One Way Street



Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

The Desert Fox



Lady Possessed

5 Fingers

Face to Face

The Prisoner of Zenda

Botany Bay



The Story of Three Loves

The Desert Rats

Julius Caesar

The Man Between

The Tell-Tale Heart



Prince Valiant


A Star Is Born

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea



Forever, Darling

Bigger Than Life



Island in the Sun



Cry Terror!

The Decks Ran Red



North by Northwest

A Touch of Larceny

Journey to the Center of the Earth



The Trials of Oscar Wilde



The Marriage-Go-Round



Escape from Zahrain


Tiara Tahiti

Hero’s Island



Torpedo Bay



The Fall of the Roman Empire

The Pumpkin Eater



Lord Jim

Genghis Khan

The Uninhibited



The Deadly Affair

Georgy Girl

The Blue Max

Dare I Weep, Dare I Mourn



The London Nobody Knows

Stranger in the House





The Sea Gull



Age of Consent



Spring and Port Wine

Cold Sweat

The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go



Bad Man’s River

Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! (fr)



Child’s Play



John Keats: His Life and Death

The Last of Sheila

The Mackintosh Man



11 Harrowhouse

The Marseille Contract (released as The Destructors)



The Year of the Wildebeest


Kidnap Syndicate

The Left Hand of the Law

Autobiography of a Princess

Inside Out

The Flower in His Mouth



People of the Wind

Voyage of the Damned

Fear in the City



Cross of Iron

Homage to Chagall: The Colours of Love



The Water Babies

Heaven Can Wait

The Boys from Brazil



North Sea Hijack

Murder by Decree

The Passage




Evil Under the Sun


A Dangerous Summer

The Verdict








Dr. Fischer of Geneva



The Shooting Party

The Assisi Underground


James Mason was nominated once for an Academy Award Best Actor in a Leading Role for A Star Is Born (1954) and twice for an Academy Award Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Georgy Girl (1966), and The Verdict (1982).

How do I wish to be remembered, if at all? I think perhaps just as a fairly desirable sort of character actor. ~James Mason

James Neville Mason was born May 15, 1909 in Huddersfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, to Mabel Hattersley (Gaunt) and John Mason. His father was a wealthy textile merchant. He was educated at Marlborough College, and earned a first in Architecture at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he became involved in stock theatre companies in his spare time. Mason had no formal training in acting and initially embarked upon it for fun. After Cambridge, he made his stage debut in Aldershot in The Rascal in 1931. He joined The Old Vic theatre in London under the guidance of Tyrone Guthrie. In 1933 Alexander Korda gave Mason a small role in The Private Life of Don Juan but sacked him three days into shooting.

From 1935 to 1938, he starred in many British quota quickies. He registered as a conscientious objector during the Second World War (causing his family to break with him for many years), but his tribunal exempted him only on the requirement to do non-combatant military service, which he refused; his appeal against this became irrelevant by including him in a general exemption for film work.

Mason became hugely popular for his brooding anti-heroes in the Gainsborough series of melodramas of the 1940s, including The Man in Grey (1943) and The Wicked Lady (1945). He also starred with Deborah Kerr and Robert Newton in Hatter’s Castle (1942). He then took the lead role in the popular The Seventh Veil (1945), which set box office records in post-war Britain and raised him to international stardom. He followed it with a role as a mortally wounded IRA bank robber on the run in Odd Man Out (1947) and his first Hollywood film, Caught (1949). Exhibitors voted him the most popular star in Britain in each year between 1944 and 1947. They also thought he was the most popular international star in 1946; he dropped to second place the following year.

Mason was a devoted lover of animals, particularly cats. He and his wife, Pamela Mason, co-authored the book The Cats in Our Lives, which was published in 1949. James Mason wrote most of the book and also illustrated it. In The Cats in Our Lives, he recounted humorous and sometimes touching tales of the cats (as well as a few dogs) he had known and loved.

In 1952, Mason purchased a house previously owned by Buster Keaton. He discovered several nitrate film reels of previously-thought-lost films stored in the house and produced by the comedian, such as The Boat. Mason arranged to have the decomposing films transferred to safety stock and thus saved them from being permanently lost.

Mason’s “languid but impassioned” vocal talent enabled him to play a menacing villain as easily as his good looks assisted him as a leading man. His roles include Brutus in Julius Caesar (1953), Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel and The Desert Rats, the amoral valet turned spy in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 5 Fingers, the declining actor in the first remake of A Star Is Born (1954), Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), a small town school teacher driven insane by the effects of cortisone in Bigger Than Life (1956), a suave master spy in North by Northwest (1959), a former World War II hero and Admiralty commander A Touch of Larceny (1959), and a determined scientist and explorer in Journey to the Center of the Earth (also 1959).

James Mason, Martin Landau, and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest (1959)

James Mason, Martin Landau, and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest (1959)

In 1963 he settled in Switzerland, and embarked on a transatlantic career. He played Humbert Humbert in Stanley Kubrick’s version of Lolita (1962), a river pirate who betrays Peter O’Toole’s character in Lord Jim (1965), Bradley Morahan in Age of Consent (1969), the evil Doctor Polidori in Frankenstein: The True Story (1973), the vampire’s servant, Richard Straker, in Salem’s Lot, and surreal Royal Navy Captain Hughes in Yellowbeard (1983). One of his last roles, that of corrupt lawyer Ed Concannon in The Verdict (1982), earned him his third and final Oscar nomination.

In 1967 Mason narrated the documentary The London Nobody Knows'”. He then went on to narrate two British documentary series supervised by Kevin Brownlow: Hollywood (1980), on the silent cinema and Unknown Chaplin (1983), devoted to out-take material from the films of Charlie Chaplin. Mason had been a long-time neighbor and friend of the comedian.

Having completed playing the lead role in Dr. Fischer of Geneva (1985), adapted from Graham Greene’s eponymous novella for the BBC, he stepped into the role in The Shooting Party originally meant for Paul Scofield, who was unable to continue after being seriously injured in an accident on the first day of shooting. This was to be Mason’s final screen performance.

From 1941 to 1964, Mason was married to British actress Pamela Mason (née Ostrer) (1916–1996); they had one daughter, Portland Mason Schuyler (1948–2004), and one son, Morgan (who is married to Belinda Carlisle, the lead singer of the Go-Go’s). Portland Mason was named after Portland Hoffa, the wife of the American radio comedian Fred Allen; the Allen’s and the Masons were friends. The Masons were unusually indulgent parents, allowing their daughter to take up cigarette smoking at age three and their son to begin drinking beer at age five. Pamela Mason was widely reported to be a devotee of the Hollywood social scene and was frequently unfaithful to her husband. Nevertheless, she initiated divorce proceedings against him in 1962, claiming adultery on his part. This led to a $1M divorce settlement, and made a star of her attorney Marvin Mitchelson.

In 1971, he married Australian actress Clarissa Kaye. They were married until his death.

Mason’s autobiography, Before I Forget, was published in 1981.

Mason survived a severe heart attack in 1959. He died as result of another heart attack on July 27, 1984 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he was cremated.

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