James Mason

Last updated on the 10 June 2024 by Maeve

James Mason headshot

Mini Biography

Born: 15 May 1909, Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England. 

James Mason, the son of a wealthy wool merchant, young James initially set his sights on a more conventional path, studying architecture at Peterhouse, Cambridge. However, the allure of the stage proved irresistible. After graduating, he embarked on a theatrical career, learning his craft in repertory companies before catching the eye of famed director Tyrone Guthrie at London’s Old Vic.

Mason’s film debut arrived in 1935 with a minor role in “Late Extra.” Throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s, he steadily built his reputation in British films, often portraying charming but morally ambiguous characters. His brooding good looks and deep, velvety voice became his signature trademarks.

The Wicked Lady - Margaret Lockwood and James Mason
The Wicked Lady – Margaret Lockwood and James Mason

By the mid-1940s, Mason had become a bona fide star, topping the UK box office for two consecutive years. Films like “The Seventh Veil” (1945), a complex story about a concert pianist struggling with amnesia, showcased his dramatic range, while “The Wicked Lady” (1945) cemented his status as a leading man.




James Mason and Kathleen Ryan in Odd Man Out
James Mason and Kathleen Ryan in Odd Man Out

In 1947, Mason starred in “Odd Man Out,” a neo-noir masterpiece about a Belfast IRA gunman on the run. The film, lauded for its social commentary and gritty realism, was the first recipient of the BAFTA Award for Best British Film. It also marked a turning point in Mason’s career. Disillusioned with the limitations of the British film industry, he set his sights on Hollywood.

The 1950s saw Mason flourish in American cinema. He effortlessly transitioned from playing romantic leads in films like “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” (1951) to portraying complex villains in classics such as “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954) and “North by Northwest” (1959). His portrayal of the tragic movie star Norman Maine in “A Star is Born” (1954) earned him his first Academy Award nomination.


Peter Ustinov and James Mason in Evil Under the Sun
Peter Ustinov and James Mason in Evil Under the Sun

James Mason never shied away from challenging roles. He took on the controversial character of Humbert Humbert in Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita” (1962). Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he continued to work prolifically, both in Hollywood and Europe, appearing in films like “Julius Caesar” (1963) and “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974).

While his film career remained active well into his later years, Mason also ventured into television. He received critical acclaim for his role in the chilling miniseries “Salem’s Lot” (1979). His final film performance, a portrayal of a corrupt lawyer in “The Verdict” (1982), earned him his third and final Academy Award nomination.

James Mason’s personal life was marked by both love and loss. His first marriage, to Pamela Kellino, lasted for over two decades and produced two children. Following their divorce, he married actress Clarissa Kaye in 1971.

James Mason passed away in 1984 at the age of 75. He left behind a legacy as one of cinema’s most captivating actors, a man who effortlessly transitioned between brooding villains and charming heroes, captivating audiences for over five decades.


Suggested viewing


Spring and Port Wine (1970)

Spring and Port Wine poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.0

A strict patriarch in a working-class British family clashes with the changing times. He enforces rigid rules and expects his daughters to contribute to the household, but their youthful desires for independence and love run counter to his traditional expectations.

Top cast: James Mason, Diana Coupland, Hannah Gordon, Susan George, Rodney Bewes, Len Jones, Keith Buckley, Adrienne Posta, Arthur Lowe.

More kitchen sink dramas

A Taste of Honey (1961)


The Man Between (1953)

The Man Between poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.0

A young woman visiting post-war Berlin gets entangled with a charming but shady stranger. As Cold War tensions simmer, she finds herself caught in a web of espionage, forced to choose between love and survival in a divided city.

Top cast: James Mason, Claire Bloom, Hildegard Knef, Geoffrey Toone, Aribert Wäscher, Ernst Schröder, Dieter Krause, Hilde Sessak.


Odd Man Out (1947)

Odd Man Out poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.6

Wounded after a botched robbery, an Irish nationalist leader flees through Belfast, desperately seeking help. Betrayal and dwindling options force him to confront his own ideals and the human cost of his actions as he races against time and a tightening police net.

Top cast: James Mason, Robert Newton, Cyril Cusack F.J. McCormick, William Hartnell, Fay Compton, Denis O’Dea, W.G. Fay.


They Were Sisters (1945)

They Were Sisters poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.8

Three sisters navigate vastly different marriages: one finds happiness but longs for children, another escapes an unhappy union through affairs and the last endures a controlling and abusive husband, with their lives intertwining as they face love, betrayal and the complexities of family.

Top cast: James Mason, Phyllis Calvert, Hugh Sinclair, Anne Crawford, Peter Murray-Hill, Dulcie Gray, Barry Livesey, Pamela Mason, Ann Stephens.


Cross of Iron (1977)

Cross of Iron poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.4

In the brutal Eastern Front of WWII, a battle-hardened sergeant leads his men through desperate retreats, clashing with a glory-hungry captain who prioritises medals over lives. As loyalty and camaraderie are tested, they fight for survival against a relentless enemy and the horrors of war itself.

Top cast: James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, James Mason, David Warner, Klaus Löwitsch, Vadim Glowna, Roger Fritz, Dieter Schidor.

More WW2 Eastern Front

Enemy at the Gates poster


The Man in Grey (1943)

The Man in Grey poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.5

A young woman trapped in a loveless marriage finds solace in an old friend, rekindling a past romance. But their secret affair sparks jealousy and revenge, leading them down a path of danger and betrayal, all while their descendants unknowingly mirror their story centuries later.

Top cast: Margaret Lockwood, Phyllis Calvert, James Mason, Stewart Granger, Harry Scott, Beatrice Varley, Martita Hunt, Helen Hayes, Raymond Lovell.


Death Cell (1941)

Death Cell poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.5

A private investigator, following a trail of extortion and a missing girl, uncovers a web of deceit when the prime suspect, a doctor at the heart of the case, vanishes himself, leaving the investigator to race against time to find the truth and expose the real culprit.

Top cast: James Mason, Mary Clare, Margaret Vyner, Gordon McLeod, Frederick Valk, Barbara Everest, Barbara James, G.H. Mulcaster.


Voyage of the Damned (1976)

Voyage of the Damned poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.4

Desperate to escape Nazi persecution, hundreds of Jewish refugees board a ship for Cuba, only to be turned away by multiple countries. Trapped at sea and facing an uncertain future, they wrestle with despair and hope as the captain desperately searches for a safe harbour.

Top cast: Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, Oskar Werner, James Mason, Malcolm McDowell, Orson Welles, Lee Grant, Katharine Ross, Denholm Elliott, Leonard Rossiter.


The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951)

The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.9

A brilliant German tank commander in North Africa clashes with Hitler’s brutality, questioning Nazi ideology while leading daring desert offensives, but ultimately finds himself caught between loyalty to his men and defiance against a tyrannical regime.

Top cast: James Mason, Cedric Hardwicke, Jessica Tandy, Luther Adler, Everett Sloane, Leo G. Carroll, George Macready, Richard Boone, Eduard Franz.


The Wicked Lady (1945)

The Wicked Lady poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.8

In 17th century England, a bored noblewoman rebels against societal constraints. She steals her friend’s groom, then takes to a life of crime as a masked highwaywoman, thrilling in the danger and excitement. But her double life becomes precarious as she attracts the attention of both a handsome outlaw and a determined lawman – her unsuspecting husband.

Top cast: Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Patricia Roc, Griffith Jones, Michael Rennie, Felix Aylmer, Enid Stamp-Taylor, Jean Kent, Francis Lister.


The Desert Rats (1953)

The Desert Rats poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.7

In war-torn North Africa, a resourceful British captain leads a ragtag group of Australian soldiers, vastly outnumbered by German forces, in a tenacious defense of a strategic Libyan port, earning them the nickname “The Desert Rats” for their resilience and bravery.

Top cast: Richard Burton, James Mason, Robert Newton, Robert Douglas, Torin Thatcher, Chips Rafferty, Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Charles Davis, Ben Wright.


Lolita (1962)

Lolita poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.5

A middle-aged literature professor becomes obsessed with a teenage girl, manipulating his way into her life through marriage to her mother. The controversial relationship spirals into a twisted journey of possession and control, marked by loss and the pursuit of a dark desire.

Top cast: James Mason, Shelley Winters, Sue Lyon, Gary Cockrell, Jerry Stovin, Diana Decker, Lois Maxwell, Cec Linder.


The Seventh Veil (1945)

The Seventh Veil poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.7

A famed pianist with crippling amnesia undergoes hypnosis to recover her memories, revealing a complex past filled with a possessive guardian who nurtured her talent while sabotaging her love life, forcing her to confront the truth about her emotions and reclaim her ability to play.

Top cast: James Mason, Ann Todd, Herbert Lom, Hugh McDermott, Albert Lieven, Yvonne Owen, David Horne.


The Boys from Brazil (1978)

The Boys from Brazil poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 7.0

A Nazi hunter races against time to stop a chilling plot by a disguised Mengele, who has secretly cloned Hitler from stolen genetic material and placed the boys with unsuspecting families, aiming to resurrect the Nazi legacy through a new generation.

Top cast: Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Steve Guttenberg, Denholm Elliott, Rosemary Harris, John Dehner, Bruno Ganz.


Evil Under the Sun (1982)

Evil Under the Sun (1982) poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.0

On a luxurious island getaway, a glamorous socialite becomes the target of resentment. When she’s found murdered, the famed detective Poirot untangles a web of deceit and hidden motives among the seemingly idyllic vacationers, revealing a killer lurking beneath the sun-drenched paradise.

Top cast: Peter Ustinov, James Mason, Sylvia Miles, Roddy McDowell, Maggie Smith, Jane Birkin, Nicholas Clay, Diana Rigg, Denis Quilley.

More Agatha Christie

Marple poster      David Suchet Poirot poster


Far into the Night (1943)

Far into the Night poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 6.7

Set during World War II, an East End of London A.F.S. unit proves their mettle. Bob and Nan, a couple planning to marry, face the war’s challenges. Bob joins the A.F.S., who are recruiting. Amidst feuds and personal struggles, the A.F.S. boys rise heroically during the blitz, demonstrating unwavering devotion to duty

Top cast: Tommy Trinder, James Mason, Philip Friend, Mervyn Johns, William Hartnell, Finlay Currie.

More home front

Mrs. Miniver - Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon


Fanny by Gaslight (1944)

Fanny by Gaslight poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 6.5

A young woman, unaware of her true parentage, traverses a web of secrets in Victorian London. After discovering a shocking family connection, she finds love but faces social barriers and a manipulative villain who threatens her newfound happiness.

Top cast: Phyllis Calvert, James Mason, Wilfrid Lawson, Stewart Granger, Jean Kent, Margaretta Scott, Nora Swinburne, Cathleen Nesbitt.


James Mason full filmography @ Wikipedia
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments