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East Side, West Side (1949): James Mason

Posted on August 3, 2020 at 6:03 PM

James Mason (1909-1984).
James Mason did not train as an actor.  He took it up as an aside during his education.
In 1933, Mason was given a small film role by Alexander Korda in “The Private Life of Don Juan,” but Korda sacked him three days into the shooting.
In 1935, on the set of his second film, “Troubled Waters” Mason met Pamela Kellino.  Pamela’s husband, Roy, was the cinematographer on the film.  Mason not only became fast friends with Pamela, he moved in with Pamela and her husband and collaborated with them on several stage and screen plays.
In 1937 he had a key role in “Fire Over England” with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.  Then, Korda used Mason again in “The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel, 1937.
In 1938, Mason and Pamela Kellino played lovers on the run in “I Met a Murderer.”  Shortly afterwards, Kellino’s husband, Roy divorced Pamela naming Mason as co-respondent.  She married Mason in 1940.
They moved to Hollywood in the 1940s, where Pamela became a popular hostess.  According to her son, she had had numerous affairs.  She remained in Beverly Hills with “a multitude of free-range cats.”  She is described as “outspoken with unrepentant, undeviating, withering aim.”
Even after the divorce, Roy remained on friendly terms with the Masons and directed two of their later films “Lady Possessed” and “Charade.”  
Mason achieved considerable success in the British Cinema (The Seventh Veil, 1945, The Wicked Lady, 1945, Odd Man Out, 1947) before coming to Hollywood. 
During WWII, Mason registered as a conscientious objector.  This caused his family to break with him for many years.  When he was approved by a board to do non-combat military service, Mason refused.  Then, the issue became moot when Mason was included in a general exemption for film work.
Mason received the best reviews of his career in “Odd Man Out” (1947) where he played a mortally wounded IRA bank robber on the run.
One of Mason’s early films in Hollywood was “Madame Bovary” (1949).  Many of the films Mason did during this early period were not successful.  Then, he was cast as General Rommel in “The Desert Fox” (1951).  Even though Mason had refused for years to sign a studio contract, he agreed to sign with 20th Century Fox for seven years at one film a year, in order to get the part of Rommel.
In 1951, Mason did another film written by his wife and directed by her former husband, Roy Kellino (Lady Possessed, 1951).  In 1953, he did the very successful “Julius Caesar” with Marlon Brando.
In 1954, Mason did another film written by Pamela Mason and directed by his father in law, “Charade.”
Mason did numerous plays on television and in the 1960s settled into supporting roles. 
One of Mason’s last roles was as the corrupt lawyer Ed Concannon in “The Verdict” (1982) with Paul Newman.
Mason, along with his wife Pamela, was an ardent animal lover.  They especially loved cats.  He and Pamela wrote a book about their cats “The Cats in Our Lives,” published in 1949.  Mason wrote most of the book and illustrated it. 
Mason was married to Pamela from 1941 – 1964.  Wikipedia notes that Pamala Mason was active in the Hollywood social scene and was “frequently unfaithful” to her husband.  Her son confirmed this.  In 1962, she initiated divorce proceedings against Mason, claiming adultery on his part.  There was a $1 million divorce settlement.  Mason was married to Australian actress Clarissa Kaye from 1971 until his death.  He often used his power to get Clarissa parts in his movies. 
Mason wrote an autobiography “Before I Forget, 1981.”
Mason left everything to his second wife although the will was contested by his children with Pamela Mason.  Clarissa Mason left her assets to the religious guru Sathya Sai Baba, when she died in 1994.  Clarissa also left the guru Mason’s ashes.  Mason’s children later sued the guru and got the ashes back. 
Pamela Mason was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and banker who became president of the Gaumont British Picture Corporation in the early 1920s.  She married cinematographer Roy Kellino in 1934, at the age of 18. 
Pamela’s novel “Del Palma, 1948, was the basis for the film Lady Possessed.  Another novel in 1968 was “Marriage is the first step toward Divorce. 
Other famous Mason movies
•       The Desert Fox
•       A Star is Born
•       20,000 Leagues under the Sea
•       Lolita
•       North by Northwest
•       Journey to the Center of the Earth
•       Julius Caesar
•       Heaven Can Wait
•       The Boys From Brazil

Categories: Film

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