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James Mason Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (26) | Personal Quotes (21)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 15 May 1909Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, UK
Date of Death 27 July 1984Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland  (heart attack)
Birth NameJames Neville Mason
Height 5' 11½" (1.82 m)

Mini Bio (1)

James Mason was a great English actor of British and American films. He was born in Yorkshire, attended Marlborough and Cambridge, where he discovered acting on a lark and abandoned a planned career as an architect. Following work in stock companies, he joined the Old Vic under the guidance of Sir Tyrone Guthrie and of Alexander Korda, who gave Mason at least one small film role in 1933, but fired him a few days into shooting. Mason remained in the theatre becoming a prominent stage actor, meanwhile getting first small, then rapidly larger roles in "quota quickies", minor films made to accommodate laws mandating a certain percentage of films shown in Britain to be British-made. Mason's talent for playing protagonists of a decidedly hard-bitten or melancholy stripe brought him from these minor films to a position as one of Britain's major film stars of the 1940s. When, late in that decade, he came to America, he played somewhat more glamorous or heroic roles than he had been accustomed to in Britain, but he remained a dynamic and intelligent force on the screen. His tendency to take any job offered led him to have many unworthy credits on his resume but, throughout his career, he remained a respected and powerful figure in the industry. His mellifluous voice and an uncanny ability to suggest rampant emotion beneath a face of absolute calm made him a fascinating performer to watch. He died of a heart attack in 1984 at his home in Switzerland.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (2)

Clarissa Kaye-Mason (13 August 1971 - 27 July 1984) (his death)
Pamela Mason (February 1941 - 1964) (divorced) (two children)

Trade Mark (2)

Sophisticated upper-class demeanor
Deep mellifluous voice

Trivia (26)

He should not be confused with the American actor Jim Mason (1889 - 1959), aka James Mason, who appeared in silent films, particularly Westerns in the 1920s and 1930s.
He had been considered for the part of Harry Lime in the television series The Third Man (1959) (1959-1965) but Michael Rennie ended up in the role.
An avowed pacifist, he refused to perform military service during World War II, a stance that caused his family to break with him for many years.
Father of Morgan Mason and actress/scriptwriter Portland Mason .
Was responsible for getting an unknown actor from New Zealand his first major film role. That actor was Sam Neill .
Was scheduled to play James Bond 007 in a 1958 television adaptation of From Russia with Love, which was ultimately never produced. Later, despite being in his 50s, Mason was a contender to play Bond in Dr. No (1962) before Sean Connery was cast.
Turned down the role of Hugo Drax in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker (1979) .
In 1952 while remodeling his home, he discovered several reels of Buster Keaton 's "lost" films (Mason had purchased Keaton's Hollywood mansion) and immediately recognized their historical significance and was responsible for their preservation.
Starred with his wife Clarissa Kaye-Mason in the original Salem's Lot (1979). They appeared together in the film, Age of Consent (1969).
He was offered the role of Lawyer Crosby in the The Cat and the Canary (1978). However, the gender of the role was changed to female and was played by Wendy Hiller.
Told Playboy magazine in the late 1970s that he hated rock 'n' roll but loved country music.
Can be seen visiting the set of Stanley Kubrick 's The Shining (1980) in Vivian Kubrick's TV documentary Making 'The Shining' (1980). Stanley Kubrick did not usually allow visitors to his set, but made an exception for Mason, who had memorably played Humbert Humbert for him in Lolita (1962) .
Was the original choice to play Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase (1973), but had to turn down the role due to poor health. John Houseman, who had acted in only one other movie in a bit part, was cast and won an Oscar.
Was rejected by fellow student Alistair Cooke for an acting role whilst at Cambridge. Cooke asked Mason what course he was studying. "Architecture", replied Mason. "Then I think you should finish your degree and forget about acting." advised Cooke, in one of his rare lapses of judgment.
Eddie Izzard often uses an impression of James Mason in his stand-up comedy routines as the voice of a confused, dithering God.
Was offered the part of Viktor Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago (1965) by double-Oscar winning director David Lean after Marlon Brando failed to respond to director Lean's written inquiry into whether he wanted to play the role. Mason initially accepted the part. Lean decided on Mason, who was a generation older than Brando, as he did not want an actor who would overpower the character of Yuri Zhivago (specifically, to show Zhivago up as a lover of Lara, who would be played by the young Julie Christie, which the charismatic Brando might have done, shifting the sympathy of the audience). Mason eventually dropped out and Rod Steiger, who had just won the Silver Bear as Best Actor for his role as the eponymous The Pawnbroker (1964), accepted the role.
11 years after being mentioned in Rope (1948) as making an excellent villain, he was finally cast by Alfred Hitchcock as such in North by Northwest (1959).
He refused to wear make-up.
He suffered a severe heart attack in 1959.
Grandfather of actor James Duke Mason.
Reportedly, he once saved the life of Max Bygraves' son Anthony. Max Bygraves and his son Anthony were at a party at Judy Garland's house. Anthony fell into the pool and Max did not notice. James Mason did notice and, fully clothed, he jumped into the water and pulled Anthony out.
Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Mason lived with future wife Pamela Kellino and husband Roy, and even after Mason married her, Kellino continued to live with them.
At Liza Minelli's request, Mason read the eulogy at Judy Garland's funeral.
Mason was set to make his screen debut in "The Private Life of Don Juan," Douglas Fairbanks' final film, but was replaced after four days supposedly because of unsuitable casting.
Was among the various actors in the running for the role of Hans Fallanda in Lifeforce(1985). Frank Finlay won the the role.

Personal Quotes (21)

[From Bill Fairchild] In a noisy world, he spoke quietly and, yet, his voice will be remembered by millions who never knew him.
How do I wish to be remembered, if at all? I think perhaps just as a fairly desirable sort of character actor.
I'm a character actor: the public never knows what it's getting by way of a Mason performance from one film to the next. I therefore represent a thoroughly insecure investment.
[on not showing up at the 27th Academy Awards, even though he had been nominated as Best Actor for A Star Is Born (1954) and had agreed to go] The Oscar show is always a little better when things go wrong, so I had no need to feel guilty about letting them down.
[1970 comment on Jean Renoir] He's my style. Renoir's good for actors. Renoir obviously loves actors and understands actors, and La Grande Illusion (1937), which I saw recently, is so modern that it could have been made this year - the acting and the staging of it are absolutely modern and true.
[on Sir Carol Reed] He was always a director who got as much out of actors as could possibly be gotten. And he could stage individual scenes as well as they could possibly be staged. If he had a weakness, which I admit he has, it was that he didn't have a sufficiently keen story sense.
I purposely would not go and see the old version of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). They told me my part was played by Claude Rains, for whom I have an infinite admiration, and I knew I would never be as good as him.
[on Joseph L. Mankiewicz] A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950) were marvelous films. I thought that the last good film he made was 5 Fingers (1952), because personally I have not seen a Mankiewicz film that appeared to be well-directed since then. For instance, Cleopatra (1963) was a hideous film but nevertheless you could see that it had some good, well-written scenes and the director had not served the writer well.
Having been fascinated by the Alan Ladd phenomenon, I now had the opportunity to study it at close quarters. It turned out that he had the exquisite coordination and rhythm of an athlete, which made it a pleasure to watch him when he was being at all physical.
[on Alfred Hitchcock] You can see from the way he uses actors that he sees them as animated props. He casts his films very, very carefully and he knows perfectly well in advance that all the actors that he chooses are perfectly capable of playing the parts he gives them, without any special directorial effort on his part. He gets some sort of a charge out of directing the leading ladies, I think, but that's something else.
[on Judy Garland] In some of her films she showed talent which was very comic and touching. Touching because she played with a bright smile and a great spirit, while the situation was rather dramatic, even tragic perhaps. She had in fact a quality which can only be compared to Charles Chaplin's heartbreaking quality: always optimistic, always gay, always inventive, against poverty, against desperate situations - and that's when Judy is at her best.
[on Bette Davis] The greatest actress of all time.
[on Max Ophüls: I think I know the reason why producers tend to make him cry. Inevitably they demand some stationary set-ups, and a shot that does not call for tracks is agony for dear poor Max, who, separated from his dolly, is wrapped in deepest melancholy. Once, when they took away his crane, I thought he'd never smile again...
I loved Max Ophüls because he had a very unsuccessful career as far as America was concerned, but he had an irrepressible spirit. He was a brave, resilient man and a great man of theatre and he loved his work, he had an undying enthusiasm. He was a lovely man.
[on Raquel Welch] I have never met someone so badly behaved.
Walter Wanger was a man who always wanted to be European. He didn't know how to be European but he wanted to be European, so The Reckless Moment (1949) was rather the kind of film - I suppose, like Brief Encounter (1945) - that he was trying to make, but it wasn't very good.
[on Rudolph Valentino] That Valentino was certainly a very splendid fellow. And his unique glamor was not entirely due to the fact that he was unhampered by banal dialogue. Modern dialogue is not always banal, and the screen hero who could match Valentino's posturing technique with an equally polished vocal technique has a perfectly fair chance of becoming his romantic peer. It was his magnetism and dignity that assured him a peak of magnificent isolation.
[on Louella Parsons] Not a bad old slob.
The trouble with Hollywood is that the producers and agents are the aristocrats... which made actors who make their living in Hollywood usually feel they are some sort of scum. They looked for other means of showing off and were great on rallies for political candidates.
[from his eulogy for Judy Garland] I traveled in her orbit only for a little while but it was an exciting while, and one during which it seemed that the joys in her life out-balanced the miseries. The little girl whom I knew, who had a little curl in the middle of her forehead, when she was good she was not only very, very good, she was the most sympathetic, the funniest, the sharpest and the most stimulating woman I ever knew. She was a lady who gave so much and richly, both to her vast audience who she entertained and to the friends around her whom she loved, that there was no currency in which to repay her. And she needed to be repaid, she needed devotion and love beyond the resources of any of us.
To be a successful film star, as opposed to a successful film actor, you should settle for an image and polish it forever. I somehow could never quite bring myself to do that.

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