James Mason(1909-1984)

     Sophistication seemed to define every James Mason performance. I suppose is was the mellifluous voice, silky, razor sharp, knowing, that gave Mason the weight of authority and knowledge. Dark-haired and dark-eyed, Mason's gaze was penetrating. Often, he was cast in the villain's role owing to his black countenance. 
     A Mason hallmark was consistency of performance. The actor must have been a perfectionist. Each role seemed meticulously crafted and often the actor rose above the material.
     A Star is Born is one of my favorite Mason roles. As the drunken Norman Maine, the movie star on the way down , Mason staggered and slurred his way into Esther Blodgett's (Later Vicki Lester)heart and at the same time captured the audience. Though the role calls for Mason to be crude and out-of-control, the deep sophistication saves Norman Maine from becoming a boorish and unredeemable character. He's a lost soul and one of the best opportunities for Mason to strut his stuff. Odd Man Out is another marvelous Mason performance. As IRA leader Johnny McQueen, Mason plays most of the film badly wounded. Yet, he captures the screen with his faint whispers and pained movement. If you haven't seen the excellent Carol Reed directed film, catch up with it. Another great Mason screen portrait is Ulysses Diello, the infamous spy Cicero. Mason brings a magnificent focus to the role of Diello in the slick Five Fingers directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.
      Mason's later career was filled by many supporting roles. He was a terrific Mr. Jordan in Heaven Can Wait, brought all that world weary sophistication to Edward J. Concannon in The Verdict, and donned a Nazi Colonel's uniform for Sam Peckinpah in Cross of Iron. A distinguished career that spanned six decades and more than 100 films, James Mason made every movie he appeared in better. That's quite an accolade.

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