James Mason was the urbane Brit who could epitomize the essential English gentleman in one film but become a cad and bounder in his next.
Whether the visionary Captain Nemo in the Jules Verne classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" or the lecherous professor Humbert Humbert obsessed with the nymphet "Lolita," Mason somehow always managed to wrap himself with a thread or two of gentlemanly cloth.
He made 130 pictures over 50 years and some, he admitted, "were quite appalling."
"But," he quickly added "if you're an actor and you want to keep going, then you can only choose the best of what's offered to you."
Mason's "best" provided a microcosm of the motion picture genre: "A Star Is Born," "Odd Man Out," "The Seventh Veil," "North by Northwest," "Georgy Girl" and "The Verdict."
He enrolled at Cambridge, where he studied the classics. He graduated with a degree in architecture but soon discovered that his real interests lay in "a very esoteric film society" he belonged to.
In 1931, he answered a London advertisement and got his first acting job in "Rasputin, the Rascal Monk." He drew rave notices and moved to the Old Vic Theater and the Gate Theater in Dublin before making his film debut in 1935 in "Late Extra."
In 1943 he made "The Man in Grey," a melodrama of aristocratic love, treachery and murder. It made an international star of Mason.
He arrived in the United States after World War II as the preeminent personality and enfant terrible of British films.
He was Gustave Flaubert in "Madame Bovary," Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in "The Desert Fox" (which he played for $50,000 rather than his customary $250,000 because of his fascination with the role) and Rupert of Hentzau in "The Prisoner of Zenda."
His roles late in life were as diverse as the other-worldy Mr. Jordan in "Heaven Can Wait" and the Nazi fantasy "The Boys From Brazil."
|1954||Best Actor||A Star Is Born||Nomination|
|1966||Best Supporting Actor||Georgy Girl||Nomination|
|1982||Best Supporting Actor||The Verdict||Nomination|