Saturday, August 11, 2012
James Mason (15 May 1909 - 27 July 1984). While he was attending Marlborough College studyingarchitecture, he also began performing in stock theatre companies for fun.
After Cambridge he joined the Old Vic theatre in London under the guidance of Tyrone Guthrie and Alexander Korda. In 1933 Korda gave Mason a small role in, The Private Life of Don Juan but fired him three days into shooting.
From 1935 to 1948 he starred in many small British film and became popular for his brooding anti-heroes in the Gainsborough series of melodramas of the 1940s: The Man in Grey (1943) and The Wicked Lady (1945).
He also starred with Deborah Kerr in, Hatter's Castle (1942). He then took the lead role in, The Seventh Veil (1945). He followed it with, Odd Man Out (1947) and his first Hollywood film, Caught (1949).
Mason's distinctive voice gave him the opportunity to play a menacing villains as well as 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 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 (also 1954), Bigger Than Life (1956), North by Northwest (1959), Journey to the Center of the Earth (also 1959), Lolita (1962), Lord Jim (1965), the evil Doctor Polidori in Frankenstein: The True Story (1973), Salem's Lot, and Yellowbeard (1983).
One of his last roles, was that of corrupt lawyer Ed Concannon in, The Verdict (1982), earned him his third and final Oscar nomination. His final screen-work was playing the lead role in Dr. Fischer of Geneva as the eccentric wealthy businessman who played games with the Swiss upper class, such as offering gifts to his guests if they accepted some humiliating ritual activity (such as wearing a child's bib at the dinner table).
In 1975 he played Falconhurst plantation owner in the film, Mandingo. In the late 1970s, Mason became a mentor to up-and-coming actor Sam Neill. Late in life, he served as narrator for a British television series on the films of Charlie Chaplin, Unknown Chaplin, which was aired in the U.S. on PBS.