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James Mason

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North_by_Northwest_James_Mason.jpg
James Mason in North by Northwest.
This article is about the actor. See also James Mason (chess player) and James Mason (National Socialist).

James Neville Mason (May 15, 1909July 27, 1984) was an actor born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England who attained stardom in both British and American films.

Mason had no formal training as an actor. He studied architecture at Cambridge University but got involved in the theatre in his spare time, before working at the Old Vic theatre in London and with the Gate Company in Dublin. From 1935 to 1948 he starred in many British quota quickies. A conscientious objector during World War II he became immensely popular for his brooding anti-heroes in the Gainsborough series of melodramas of the 1940s, including The Man in Grey and The Wicked Lady. In 1949 he made his first Hollywood film, Caught, and then went on to star in many more feature films and TV shows. Nominated three times for an Oscar, he never won one.

Mason's distinctive voice enabled him to play a menacing villain as greatly as his good looks assisted him as a leading man. His roles include the declining actor in the 1954 version of A Star Is Born, a mortally wounded terrorist in Odd Man Out (1946), Brutus in the 1953 film of Julius Caesar, Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), a suave masterspy in North by Northwest (1959), a determined explorer in Journey to the Center of the Earth (also 1959) and Humbert Humbert in Lolita (1963). One of his last roles, that of a corrupt lawyer in The Verdict (1982), earned him his third and final Oscar nomination.

Mason died as a result of a heart attack on July 27, 1984 in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was cremated, and (after a delay of 16 years) his ashes were buried in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland. His old friend Charlie Chaplin is in a tomb a few steps away.

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