He should not be confused with the American actor Jim Mason (1889-1959), aka James Mason, who appeared in silent films, particularly Westerns in the 1920s and 1930s.
Had been considered for the role of Harry Lime on the television series The Third Man (1959), but Michael Rennie ended up in the role.
An avowed pacifist, he refused to perform military service during World War II, a stance that caused his family to break with him for many years.
Father of Morgan Mason and actress/scriptwriter Portland Mason.
Was responsible for getting an unknown actor from New Zealand his first major film role. That actor was Sam Neill.
Was scheduled to play James Bond 007 in a 1958 television adaptation of "From Russia with Love", which was ultimately never produced. Later, despite being in his 50s, Mason was a contender to play Bond in Dr. No (1962) before Sean Connery was cast.
Turned down the role of Hugo Drax in the James Bond film Moonraker (1979), which went to Michael Lonsdale.
In 1952 while remodeling his home, he discovered several reels of Buster Keaton's "lost" films (Mason had purchased Keaton's Hollywood mansion) and immediately recognized their historical significance and was responsible for their preservation.
Has starred with his wife Clarissa Kaye-Mason in the original Salem's Lot (1979). They appeared together in the film Age of Consent (1969).
He was offered the role of Lawyer Crosby in the horror film The Cat and the Canary (1978). However, the gender of the role was changed to female and was played by Wendy Hiller.
Told Playboy magazine in the late 1970s that he hated rock 'n' roll but loved country music.
Can be seen visiting the set of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) in Vivian Kubrick's TV documentary Making 'The Shining' (1980). Stanley Kubrick did not usually allow visitors to his set, but made an exception for Mason, who had memorably played Humbert Humbert for him in Lolita (1962).
Was the original choice to play Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase (1973), but had to turn down the role due to poor health. John Houseman, who had acted in only one other movie in a small role, was cast and won an Oscar.
Was rejected by fellow student Alistair Cooke for an acting role whilst at Cambridge. Cooke asked Mason what course he was studying. "Architecture", replied Mason. "Then I think you should finish your degree and forget about acting." advised Cooke, in one of his rare lapses of judgment.
Eddie Izzard often uses an impression of James Mason in his stand-up comedy routines as the voice of a confused, dithering God.
Was offered the role of Viktor Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago (1965) by double-Oscar winning director David Lean after Marlon Brando failed to respond to director Lean's written inquiry into whether he wanted to play the role. Mason initially accepted the role. Lean decided on Mason, who was a generation older than Brando, as he did not want an actor who would overpower the character of Yuri Zhivago (specifically, to show Zhivago up as a lover of Lara, who would be played by the young Julie Christie, which the charismatic Brando might have done, shifting the sympathy of the audience). Mason eventually dropped out and Rod Steiger, who had just won the Silver Bear as Best Actor for his role as the eponymous The Pawnbroker (1964), accepted the role.
11 years after being mentioned in Rope (1948) as making an excellent villain, he was finally cast by Alfred Hitchcock as such in North by Northwest (1959).
He refused to wear make-up.
He suffered a severe heart attack in 1959.
Grandfather of actor James Duke Mason.
Reportedly, he once saved the life of Max Bygraves' son Anthony. Max Bygraves and his son Anthony were at a party at Judy Garland's house. Anthony fell into the pool and Max did not notice. James Mason did notice and, fully clothed, he jumped into the water and pulled Anthony out.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Mason lived with future wife Pamela Kellino and husband Roy, and even after Mason married her, Kellino continued to live with them.
At Liza Minnelli's request, Mason read the eulogy at Judy Garland's funeral.
Mason was set to make his screen debut in The Private Life of Don Juan (1934), Douglas Fairbanks' final film, but was replaced after four days supposedly because of unsuitable casting.
Was among the various actors in the running for the role of Dr. Hans Fallada in the science fiction horror film Lifeforce (1985); Frank Finlay won the role.
Following his death, he was interred at Corvey-Sur-Vevey Cemetery in Corvey-Sur-Vevey, Switzerland.
Mason insisted that all biographical information in Clive Hirschhorn's book, "The Films of James Mason," was removed, even the introductory notes. He wouldn't even allow his birth date to be used.
Mason's first screen appearance in "The Private Life of Don Juan," was the last for its star, Douglas Fairbanks although the fledgling actor was replaced after several days work because he was unsuitably cast.
James and Pamela Mason arrived in the U.S. in November, 1946, but he became embroiled in a legal battle with David E, Rose, who claimed the actor had agreed to form a production company with him. After eighteen months Mason eventually won the case.
Mason had committed to recreating his role for the TV pilot of "The Verdict," but his death caused the project to be abandoned.
In a January 6, 1947 "Life" magazine article Mason claimed he preferred jazz and Duke Ellington to classical music and his favorite stars were Spencer Tracy, Jean Gabin, Lena Horne, Carmen Miranda, and Veronica Lake.
The actor thought the 1937 Janet Gaynor/Fredric March version of "A Star Is Born" was superior to his and Garland's because the musical numbers detracted from the story.
Although Mason's son Morgan is a film producer, he did work in the Reagan White House.
Stated that the reason he could not find a publisher for his autobiography, "Before I Forget" was because his memoir was ". . . too polite.".
Mason and wife Pamela were cat lovers and collaborated on a book on their cats.
Was able to do uncanny impressions of John Gielgud and Gabriel Pascal.
Although somehow he was never given a much-deserved knighthood, he was awarded the Golden Seal, England's most prestigious film honor.
Mason's daughter Portland was named for comedian Fred Allen's wife.
Critic Vincent Canby said about Mason: "He is, in fact, one of the very few film actors worth taking the trouble to see even when the film that encase him is so much cement".
Mason admitted to journalists that he had only taken a part in Mandingo (1975) because he was behind with alimony payments, leading critic Roger Ebert to reply, 'surely jail would have been better'.
Reportedly, he once saved the life of Max Bygraves' son Patrick. Max Bygraves and his son were at a party at Judy Garland's house. Patrick fell into the pool and Max didn't notice. James Mason did and, fully clothed, he jumped into the water and pulled Patrick out.
Performed the role of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in two films. First in 1951 with "The Desert Fox" and followed in 1953 with "The Desert Rats".
He appeared in four films directed by Sidney Lumet: The Deadly Affair (1967), The Sea Gull (1968), Child's Play (1972) and The Verdict (1982).
Was in three Oscar Best Picture nominees: Julius Caesar (1953), Heaven Can Wait (1978) and The Verdict (1982).
His tribunal exempted him from military service during World War II only on the requirement to do non-combatant work, which he refused. His appeal against this became irrelevant by including him in a general exemption for film work.
Performed in two successful Jules Verne's classics, "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth".
He has appeared in three films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: The Tell-Tale Heart (1953), A Star Is Born (1954) and North by Northwest (1959).