Born: 15 May 1909
Died: 27 July 1984
Birthplace: Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England
Best known as: The smooth English villain from North by Northwest
English actor James Mason was a movie star for half a century in Britain and the United States, known especially for playing stylish, romantic villains, as in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959, starring Cary Grant). Trained as an architect (Cambridge, 1931), Mason abandoned that career for a try at the London stage. He made his movie debut in 1935, and by the mid-1940s he was a big star in British films, refining his persona as a polite but pitiless leading man in movies such as The Man in Grey (1943) and The Seventh Veil (1945). After great critical success with Odd Man Out (1947), Mason went to Hollywood, and for the next four decades he appeared in a variety of dramas on the big screen and on TV. It's generally agreed his talent, professionalism and distinctive, resonant voice added class to even his poorest movies (the story goes that he worked like crazy in the 1960s and '70s to help pay for Hollywood's first "million dollar divorce," his split from wife Pamela, whom he'd married in 1941). He was nominated for an Oscar three times, for A Star is Born (1954, with Judy Garland), Georgy Girl (1966) and The Verdict (1982, starring Paul Newman). His most famous TV roles came when he was in elder-statesman status, in 1973's Frankenstein: The True Story, in the 1979 version of Stephen King's Salem's Lot and in 1985's Dr. Fischer of Geneva. His feature films include The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951, as German military leader Erwin Rommel); Bigger Than Life (1956); 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954); Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1962); as Doctor Watson in the Sherlock Holmes movie Murder by Decree (1979); and as a wicked bad Nazi in The Boys From Brazil (1978, starring Gregory Peck).
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