January 2, 2017


James Mason (1909-1984) b. Huddersfield, England.

James Mason

British actor, and major British and American star, the softness of whose voice often belied the steel in his character’s soul. He was born in Yorkshire, the son of a wealthy textile merchant, was educated at Marlborough College and Cambridge. Though he became respectable as a fugitive IRA gunman in Odd Man Out (1946), it was in the Gainsborough melodramas that Mason emerged as a star, ousting George Formby from the top of the British popularity charts in 1943.

The Man in Grey (1943), Fanny by Gaslight (1944), The Seventh Veil (1945) and The Wicked Lady (1945) established him in the vein of erotic and aristocratic cruelty: most aristocratic in The Man in Grey and Fanny by Gaslight, most cruel in The Seventh Veil and most erotic in The Wicked Lady, where his taking of Margaret Lockwood is conducted as a sexual transaction in which he is the loser.

Odd Man Out, directed by Carol Reed, offered him a more culturally prestigious role in a quality film. In 1949 he went to Hollywood, where he made two films with Max Ophuls, Caught and The Reckless Moment (both 1949), played Rommel twice, in The Desert Fox (1951) and The Desert Rats (1953), played Brutus to Marlon Brando’s Anthony in Julius Caesar (1953), and starred with Judy Garland in A Star is Born (1954). He returned to Britain to make The Man Between (1952), again with Carol Reed.

He continued to play significant roles on both sides of the Atlantic until his death, winning a posthumous UK Film Critics award in 1985 for his part in The Shooting Party (1984).

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