James Mason: Odd Man Out

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9780060159832: James Mason: Odd Man Out

‘Incredibly good-looking, in a dark way ... that curious quality of a man with an eternal secret. ... That was what was so arresting. ... That and the voice.’ Geraldine Fitzgerald

The reason for watching a James Mason film, as the film critic Pauline Kael once noted, was usually only James Mason himself.

Mason was actually pointed toward a career in architecture before acting overtook him during his third year at Cambridge. He went on to make an indelible impression playing emotionally haunted characters on stage and screen, such as one early stand-out role, Johnny McQueen in Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out (1947).

Mason and his first wife, Pamela, arrived in the United States in the late forties, and the Hollywood phase of his career lasted through the 1950s. It memorably included diverse classics such as The Desert Fox, A Star is Born (for which he was Oscar-nominated) and North by Northwest.

After his return to Europe, and remarried to Clarissa Kaye, he continued in landmark movies such as Lolita, Georgy Girl, The Verdict and, his last, The Shooting Party, receiving two more Oscar nominations in the process. But in this revealing book, Mason is shown to be a highly sensitive man uncomfortable with stardom, and often at odds with attempts to mould or typecast him. He remains, in legacy, the most intriguing and unpredictable of the great screen-actors.

‘James knew how to steal movies, and give a performance that only really got noticed when the whole film was put together; so he would emerge with immense distinction having apparently been doing very little on the set.’ Christopher Plummer

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About the Author:

Sheridan Morley (1941-2007) was the third generation of a celebrated theatrical family. His father was Robert Morley, the character actor, and his grandmother was Gladys Cooper, in her youth one of the great beauties of her day and a much sought-after actor in Britain and Hollywood. Sheridan was also a cousin of the actress and presenter Joanna Lumley and brother-in-law of the actor Robert Hardy.

Morley joined The Times as deputy features editor in 1973, and then Punch in 1975 as drama critic and arts editor, remaining with the magazine until 1989. In the late 1980s, he became a regular arts diarist for The Times and was its TV critic from 1989 to 1990. He worked as drama critic for the Spectator from 1990 to 2001, and after a short period at the New Statesman, he joined the Daily Express in 2004.

He married his first wife, Margaret Gudejko, in 1965, and they had three children together. He married his second wife, Ruth Leon, in 1995.

He authored a number of books including A Talent to Amuse: A Life of Noel Coward (1969); Gladys Cooper (1979); The Hollywood Raj (1983), The Other Side of the Moon: The Life of David Niven (1985), Odd Man Out: James Mason (1989) and Robert: My Father (1993). These are now all republished by Dean Street Press.

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Sheridan Morley
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