James Mason: A Bio-Bibliography

James Mason: A Bio-Bibliography

James Mason: A Bio-Bibliography

James Mason: A Bio-Bibliography


James Mason broke into British films in 1935 after a few years working on the stage. For the rest of the decade, he alternated unsuccessful theatre ventures with increasingly important movies. Though he was a conscientious objector, he became one of the most popular British actors of the World War II era. He moved to Hollywood after the war and made 34 films between 1949 and 1962. Though success initially eluded him, he worked with some of the leading directors of the time and eventually won an Academy Award nomination for "A Star is Born" (1954). He worked steadily in the years that followed, appearing in nearly 50 feature films from 1963 until his death in 1984. While many of these films were undistinguished, he earned two additional Oscar nominations and was voted Cinema Actor of the Century by a panel of international critics in 1967. This reference book is a comprehensive guide to his life and career.

The volume begins with a biography in narrative form that traces Mason's life. The biography is followed by a short chronology, which highlights the principal events of his life and career. An extensive annotated bibliography then reviews works by and about Mason. The sections that follow detail his many performances in film, radio, television, audio recordings, and the stage. Each section includes entries for individual productions, with entries providing extensive cast and credit information, plot summaries, excerpts from reviews, and critical commentary where available. The volume also lists additional information, such as Mason's awards and nominations.


“It came out that I was swell-headed, but it was clear that
swell-headedness was not nearly as bad as uncooperative
ness, of which it was practically the worst thing that an actor
could be guilty.”

This typically wry observation encapsulates James Mason’s love/hate relationship with the film industry and with the craft of acting itself. Selfeffacing but egotistical, cerebral and introspective but often a blowhard, talented and intelligent but never an especially able judge of material, James Mason’s life and career is one large contradiction.

Mason always insisted on doing things his way, and it usually cost him. Though not early on: He broke into British B films in 1935 after a few desulatory years on stage, and for the rest of the decade alternated unsuccessful theatre ventures with increasingly important movies. He was a conscientious objector during World War II, but neither his alleged lack of patriotism nor his attacks on the mandarins of the UK film industry prevented him from becoming England’s biggest wartime star. Mason’s gallery of sexy, coldhearted rakes in a series of silly melodramas thrilled Blitz-weary audiences, and after the war he made a critical and artistic breakthrough in Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out (1947). But his disdain for contracted costume clinkers and a seeming contempt for all things English alienated the industry. So Mason fled Europe and joined the colony of U.K. ex-pats in America, a rash but logical move that rankled the sizable fan base he left behind.

Once in Hollywood, the expected avalanche of juicy star roles never materialized. Mason, proud and prickly, was not one to curry favor by checking his principles, opinions or eccentricities. His sojourn in California was,

James Mason, Before I Forget (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1981), 176.

Though some speculate his pacifism was the reason he was never knighted.

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