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I have always loved James Mason as an actor. Although he is probably best remembered for his big Hollywood pictures, like “North By Northwest,” “Lolita,” and “A Star is Born,” my favorite Mason film is “The Seventh Veil“, featured here at CMF, in which he starred with Ann Todd and played the overbearing, cousin Nicholas, who loved, but domineered his ward, the concert pianist, Francesca.
Mason made over 130 films during his 50 year career and was voted one of the top 10 British Stars in 1944 and was voted as one of Britain’s Most Popular Actors in 1946. He has received many awards and accolades, but is still known as the “The Man They Loved to Hate,” because he presented a new kind of star to audiences because he was very unconventional and often played villainous characters. He died after suffering a heart attack at the age of 75.
Gifted with one of the most mellifluous and distinctive voices of his era, James Mason managed to convey volumes of emotion while often remaining surprisingly understated. Following some stage experience and roles in British B-pictures, Mason became a star in his homeland via films like “The Man in Grey” (1943), “The Wicked Lady” (1945), and “Odd Man Out” (1947) and was eventually lured to Hollywood. His performances in “The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel” (1951), “A Star is Born” (1954), “North by Northwest” (1959), and “Lolita” (1962) ranked among his very finest, though like a number of distinguished British ex-pats from that era, financial necessity and a staunch work ethic sometimes landed Mason in truly awful tripe like “Mandingo” (1975). Fortunately, such embarrassments were almost always followed in close succession by worthy projects like “Heaven Can Wait” (1978), “Murder by Decree” (1979), and “The Verdict” (1982) that made excellent use of attributes that had long endeared Mason to audiences worldwide. Mason’s gruff, yet also uniquely velvety voice and cultured demeanor made him perfect to play aristocratic characters of both good and evil intent and his ability to add power or biting humor to even the most inane dialogue helped raise mediocre projects to the level of watchable. Although he sometimes proved more difficult to cast than other leading men, Mason’s uniqueness and versatility were his greatest assets and served him well throughout his career, particularly when he aged into being one of the finest character players in cinema.
source: Turner Classic Movies