Nationality: British. Born: James Neville Mason in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, 15 May 1909. Education: Marlborough College; Cambridge University, degree in architecture. Family: Married 1) Pamela Kellino, 1941 (divorced 1964), daughter: Portland, son: Morgan; 2) Clarissa Kaye, 1971. Career: Acted with Hull and Croydon repertory companies after leaving university; 1933—West End stage debut in Gallows Glorious; 1935—film debut in Late Extra; contract with Fox-British; 1938—formed own production company Gamma Productions; 1946—Broadway debut in Bathsheba; 1949—U.S. film debut in Caught; 1954–55—host of the TV series Lux Video Theatre, and in mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, 1977, and A.D., 1985. 1978—on Broadway in The Faith Healer. Awards: London Evening Standard Special Award, 1977; Acting Award, UK Critics, for The Shooting Party, 1985. Died: Of heart attack in Lausanne, Switzerland, 27 July 1984.
Films as Actor:
Late Extra (Parker) (as Jim Martin)
Twice Branded (Rogers) (as Henry Hamilton); Troubled Waters (Parker) (as John Merriman); Prison Breaker (Brunel) (as Bunny Barnes); Blind Man's Bluff (Parker) (as Stephen Neville); The Secret of Stambov (The Spy in White) (Marton) (as Larry); Fire over England (Howard) (as Ambassador)
The Mill on the Floss (Whelan) (as Tom Tulliver); Catch as Catch Can (Atlantic Episode) (Kellino) (as Robert Leyland); The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel (Schwartz) (as Jean Tallion)
I Met a Murderer (Kellino) (as Mark Warrow)
This Man Is Dangerous (The Patient Vanishes) (Huntington) (as Mick Cardby); Hatter's Castle (Comfort) (as Dr. Renwick); The Night Has Eyes (Terror House) (Arliss) (as Stephen)
Alibi (Hurst) (as André Laurent); Secret Mission (French) (as Raoul de Carnot); Thunder Rock (Boulting) (as Streeter)
The Bells Go Down (Dearden) (as Ted Robbins); The Man in Grey (Arliss) (as Marquis de Rohan); They Met in the Dark (Lamec) (as Commander Heritage); Candlelight in Algeria (George King) (as Alan Thurston)
Fanny by Gaslight (Man of Evil) (Asquith) (as Lord Manderstoke); Hotel Reserve (Hanbury, Comfort, and Greene) (as Peter Vadassy)
A Place of One's Own (Knowles) (as Mr. Smedhurst); They Were Sisters (Crabtree) (as Geoffrey); The Seventh Veil (Bennett) (as Nicholas); The Wicked Lady (Arliss) (as Capt. Jackson)
Odd Man Out (Reed) (as Johnny McQueen); The Upturned Glass (Huntington) (as Michael Joyce)
Caught (Ophüls) (as Larry Quinada); Madame Bovary (Minnelli) (as Gustave Flaubert); The Reckless Moment (Ophüls) (as Marlon Donnelly); East Side, West Side (Le-Roy) (as Brandon Bourne)
One Way Street (Fregonese) (as Doc Matson)
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Lewin) (as Hendrick van der Zee); The Desert Fox (Hathaway) (as Rommel)
Five Fingers (Mankiewicz) (as Cicero); Lady Possessed (Spier and Kellino) (as Del Palma); The Prisoner of Zenda (Thorpe) (as Rupert); "Secret Sharer" ep. of Face to Face (Brahm) (as Captain)
Charade (Kellino—for TV) (as The Murderer, Major Linden, and Jonah Watson, + co-sc); The Man Between (Reed) (as Ivo Kern); The Story of Three Loves (Reinhart) (as Charles Coutray); The Desert Rats (Wise) (as Rommel); Botany Bay (Farrow) (as Capt. Paul Gilbert); Julius Caesar (Mankiewicz) (as Brutus)
Prince Valiant (Hathaway) (as Sir Brack); A Star Is Born (Cukor) (as Norman Maine); 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (Fleischer) (as Capt. Nemo)
Forever Darling (Hall) (as Guardian Angel); Bigger than Life (Ray) (as Ed Avery); Island in the Sun (Rossen) (as Maxwell Fleury)
Cry Terror (Stone) (as Jim Molner); The Decks Ran Red (Stone) (as Capt. Edwin Rummill)
North by Northwest (Hitchcock) (as Phillip Vandamm); Journey to the Center of the Earth (Levin) (as Prof. Oliver Lindenbrook); A Touch of Larceny (Hamilton) (as Comm. Max Easton)
The Trials of Oscar Wilde (The Man with the Green Carnation) (Hughes) (as Sir Edward Carson)
The Marriage-Go-Round (Lang) (as Paul Delville); Escape from Zahrain (Neame) (as Johnson)
Lolita (Kubrick) (as Humbert Humbert); Hero's Island (Stevens) (as Jacob Webber, + pr); Tiara Tahiti (Kotcheff) (as Capt. Brett Aimsley)
Finché dura la tempesta (Torpedo Bay) (Frend) (as Blayne); The Fall of the Roman Empire (Anthony Mann) (as Timonedes); The Pumpkin Eater (Clayton) (as Bob Conway)
Lord Jim (Brooks) (as Gentleman Brown); Genghis Khan (Levin) (as Kam Ling); Les Pianos mécaniques (The Uninhibited) (Bardem) (as Regnier)
The Blue Max (Guillermin) (as Count von Klugermann); Georgy Girl (Narizzano) (as James Leamington); The Deadly Affair (Lumet) (as Charles Dobbs)
Stranger in the House (Rouve) (as John Lawyer); The London Nobody Knows (Cohen) (as narrator)
Duffy (Parrish) (as Charles Calvert); Mayerling (Young) (as Emperor Franz Josef)
Age of Consent (Powell) (as Bradley Monahan); The Sea Gull (Lumet) (as Trigorin)
Spring and Port Wine (Hammond) (as Rafe Crompton)
L'uomo dalle due ombre (Cold Sweat) (Young) (as Ross)
Bad Man's River (Martin) (as Montero)
Child's Play (Lumet) (as Malley); The Last of Sheila (Ross) (as Philip); The Mackintosh Man (Huston) (as Wheeler)
Frankenstein: The True Story (Smight—for TV) (as Dr. Polidari); 11 Harrow House (Avarian) (as Watts); The Marseille Contract (Parrish) (as Brizard)
Great Expectations (Hardy) (as Magwich); Mandingo (Fleischer) (as Maxwell)
Heaven Can Wait (Beatty and Henry) (as Mr. Jordan); The Boys from Brazil (Schaffner) (as Eduard Seibert)
Murder by Decree (Clark) (as Dr. Watson); Salem's Lot (Hooper—for TV); The Passage (Thompson) (as Professor Bergson)
Ffolkes (North Sea Hijack; Assault Force) (McLagen) (as Admiral Brinsden)
The Verdict (Lumet) (as Ed Concannon); Evil under the Sun (Hamilton) (as Odell Gardener); Ivanhoe (Camfield—for TV)
The Assisi Underground (Ramati)
Dr. Fischer of Geneva (Lindsay-Hogg—for TV) (title role); The Shooting Party (Bridges) (as Sir Randolph Nettleby)
Film as Director:
By MASON: books—
The Cats in Our Lives, with Pamela Kellino, 1949.
Before I Forget, London, 1981.
By MASON: articles—
Interview with I. McAsh, in Films (London), November 1981.
Interview, in Time Out (London), 4 March 1983.
Interview with P. Carcassonne, in Cinématographe (Paris), May 1983.
Interview with D. Rabourdin, in Cinéma (Paris), September 1984.
On MASON: books—
Hirschorn, Clive, The Films of James Mason, London, 1975.
De Rosso, Diana, James Mason: A Personal Biography, Oxford, 1989.
Haver, Ronald, A Star Is Born: The Making of the 1954 Movie and Its 1983 Restoration, London, 1989.
Morley, Sheridan, James Mason: Odd Man Out, London, 1989.
Sweeney, Kevin, James Mason: A Bio-Bibliography, Westport, 1999.
On MASON: articles—
Canby, Vincent, "The Performer vs the Role: Catherine Deneuve and James Mason," in The Movie Star, edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Buckley, Michael, "James Mason," in Films in Review (New York), May 1982; see also issues for June/July and November 1982.
Obituary, in Variety (New York), 1 August 1984.
Buckley, Michael, "A Final Tribute: James Mason 1904–1984," in Films in Review (New York), October 1984.
Cieutat, Michel, "James Mason, Bigger than Stars," in Positif (Paris), November 1984.
Film Dope (Nottingham), January 1989.
Brock, P.,"These I Have Known: Memories of James Mason," in Classic Images (Muscatine), October 1992.
Sayre, M., "James Mason's Killer Charm," in New York Times, 22 September 1993.
Buckley, Michael, "James Mason," in Films in Review (New York), January-February 1994.
Buckley, Michael, "James Mason," in Films in Review (New York), March-April 1994.
* * *
James Mason spent a few years on the stage before turning in the late 1930s to the screen. He appeared in a series of quota films in which his dark, somewhat sinister good looks qualified him as a type of ruthless but romantic villain. He was seen in such bravura romances as The Man in Grey, The Seventh Veil, and The Wicked Lady, successful at the box office and distinguished chiefly for his star quality. Apart from a supporting role in Thunder Rock, his first important film was Carol Reed's Odd Man Out. As Johnny, the Irish partisan being hunted through the streets of Belfast by both the police and by those seeking to aid him, he achieved the feat of playing a leading character who is mute through much of the action, an odyssey of fear and terror spanning some 24 hours.
It was on the strength of this performance that Mason went to Hollywood, embarking on what proved a busy if somewhat directionless career in which his considerable talent and unusual screen personality were too often wasted in indifferent films. Mason's screen image was of the highly educated English gentleman, with a soft touch of Irish in his speech, and the capacity to reveal a cruel streak, especially in his relations with women. Always an impressive presence, he twice appeared effectively as Field-Marshal Rommel, in The Desert Fox and The Desert Rats, and was a thoughtful but unexciting Brutus in Joseph Mankiewicz's filming of Julius Caesar. In the early 1950s he also returned to the romantic costume genre in which he had originally made his name, playing Rupert of Hentzau in The Prisoner of Zenda and bringing sinister authority to the part of Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.
Mason gave one of his best performances in George Cukor's 1954 version of A Star Is Born, as husband of the star, Judy Garland. He returned to England to make The Man Between and a three-part television film, Charade, which he co-scripted. Mason's other notable roles include the charmingly well-bred villain in Hitchcock's North by Northwest, his appearance in Ken Hughes's The Trials of Oscar Wilde, and Humbert Humbert in Kubrick's Lolita, in which Mason is for once the victim. Unfortunately, the censorship of the day required that the eroticism of the relationship between middle-aged man and nymphette be somewhat muted.