James Mason

  1. Melville  Cooper, The Private Life of Don Juan, 1931.     Ignominous  beginning for Britain’s supreme screen actor:  “The greatest actor,” said iconic director DW Griffith. Cinema Actor of the Century, said the 1967 Montreal Expo. Producer  Alexander Korda felt Mason was miscast and dropped him after a few days. Another five years passed before he started over.
  2. Laurence Olivier, Wuthering Heights, 1938.
  3. Rex Harrison, Major Barbara, 1941.    In December 1939, Gabriel Pascal (probably the only director born in Transylvania), shot a still-photo “test” of Mason – for Adolphus in the George Bernard Shaw film. Andrew Osborne won the role… until the 1941 shooting. Then,  Pascal called Mason to Denham Studios: “Jimmy, we’ve made a great mistake.”  (“We?” thought Mason!). He was sent home with the script to study. The part was obviously his, after all. Four days later, he read Rex Harrison had been signed opposite Wendy Hiller!
  4. Stewart Granger, The Man in Grey, 1943.      Mason made the film. Of course, he did. And horsewhipping Margaret Lockwood made him A Star… When Eric Portman quit the whip-hand, James was promoted (reluctantly, he maintained) to “swaggering through the title role,” said Time magazine, “sneering like Laughton, barking like Gable and frowning like Olivier on a dark night.”  (James Agate called the film “bosh and tosh”).  Granger took over the  young hero from Mason. They were swiftly paired – or interchanged –  in other preposterous UK romances and, eventually, in Hollywood’s Prisoner of Zenda, 1952.
  5. Stewart Granger, Cesar and Cleopatra, 1944.     Mason passed on Apollodorus – and took over Granger’s highwayman in The Wicked Lady, starting his two-year reign as Britain’s biggest box-office draw.
  6. Roger Livesey, I Know Where I’m Going, 1945.     Once again, Mason was due to star with Wendy Hiller. Until a   row  with director Michael Powell about salary – and billing.  Powell said: “The name of the lady precedes yours, as is usual in society.” Oh, retorted Mason, like Mrs and Mr?  The dispute solved all future billing problems – and he was free to make the melodrama that made him internationally known, The Seventh Veil!
  7. Stewart Granger, The Magic Bow, 1946.     Just as Mason was superbly suited for the 1945 highwayman, Granger was a better Paganini than Mason – who fled this insipid biography.
  8. John Abbott,  Anna and The King of Siam, 1946.     When visited by Fox chief Spyros Skouras, James was promised two films.  Including the Siamese court’s Prime Minister.
  9. Rex Harrison, Anna and The King of Siam, 1945.  …Mason was more interested in King Mongkut. “Who’s going to be the king?”  Skouras said he needed a young Charles Laughton, “foreign, of course.” Mason nodded, thinking Oriental or Mexican, Czech or Greek before realising that to Hollywood, English actors were foreign. And Harrison beat him to the throne. (Laughton beat Mason to an Italian WWII movie in 1959: Sotto dieci bandiere (UK/US: Under Ten Flags).
  10. Gregory Peck, The Paradine Case, 1946.   After musing on such Shakesperians as Maurice Evans and Laurence Olivier (plus Alan Marshal, James Mason)  for the lawyer defending murder suspect Alida Valli, producer David Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock (who wanted Ronald Colman or Joseph Cotton)  inexplicably went with Mr Cardboard. Hitch gave in to end his contract with the over-bossy DOS. Hitchcock got Mason for something much better  in 1958 –  one of his most perfect movies, North By Northwest.

  11. Michael Redgrave, Secret Beyond The Door, 1946.        Director Fritz Lang’s very own Rebecca (complete with Mrs Danvers, er Miss Robey), was Redgrave’s Hollywood debut. Although Lang had wanted wanted Mason for the guy with the crazy hobby – recreating rooms where murders have occurred. Goofy would have been more scarier than Redgrave. It cost a bomb – and bombed, after reviews like as “beyond human endurance” and “it stinks.” Joan Bennett, as Rebecca – er, Celia – called it “an unqualified disaster.” And she helped produce it!
  12. George Sanders, Forever Amber, 1947.     The second Fox offer – Charles II – was “unthinkable.”
  13. Michael Redgrave, Mourning Becomes Electra, 1947.     One of many he had to refuse while “immbolised by the law” for 18 months due to an alleged contract with Hollywood producer David E Rose.  Mason never saw the film that slashed the six-hour O’Neill’s verbal fireworks in half. Friends assured him it was “a  mite too stodgy.”
  14. Robert Ryan, Caught,  1948.     Mason’s first Hollywood experience. He won Round One –  refusing to be the villain, having been there too often in London, and so Robert Ryan made life hell for Barbara Bel Geddes. Mason lost Round Two – the preview cards were ecstatic, three months later, the reviews were lousy. 
  15. Van Helfin, Tap Roots, 1948.     Still with “a cloud on my title,” he escaped Walter Wanger’s mini-Gone With The Wind.  “It was,” noted Mason, “a mess.”

  16. Victor Mature, Samson and Delilah, 1948.  
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMIlle first planned the epic in 1935 for Henry Wilcoxon and Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious. So did James Mason – suggesting $250,000. (DeMille showed him  the door). He toyed with Roberts Mitchum, Ryan  and Taylor; ruled out  Lex Barker (he became a five-time Tarzan) and Burt Lancaster –  too inexperienced, a bad back and  “bad” politics. Other also-rans went from longtime CB acolyte John Bromfield, Rory Calhoun, Jim Davis (future father of JR in Dallas),  Errol Flynn, William Hopper (Hedda’s son!), John Ireland, Glen Langan, Willard Parker… to the youngest new evangelist in town, Dr Billy Graham!. Then, CB was telling 22-year-old Steve Reeves, to tone down his muscularity – while packing Mature  off to the gym to beef his up!  Here’s a review by Groucho Marx: No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  17. Louis Jourdan, Madame Bovary, 1949.  Instead, Mason played Gustave Flaubert, himself, defending his book “lazily and unimaginatively” in the script’s public immorality trial. Van Heflin was M’sieur B and appeared  to carry the pain of the cuckold in  the majority of his 67 other roles.
  18. Michael MacLiammoir, Othello, 1949.    Inspired thinking but Mason was more used to films with iron-clad schedules and payments. So Orson Welles called upon the Irishman – “we’ll be Chubby Tragedians together.” As biographer David Thomson put it: “Imagine this mind in charge of a studio”
  19. George Dolenz, Vendetta, 1950.      Director Preston Sturgess formed California  Pictures with Howard Hughes and used Prosper Merimée’s Colomba (the source of Carmen) as the perfect launchpad for Hughes’ latest full-bodied find, Faith Domergue – rather than the US debut of Mason and director Max Ophuls. The career of the Yugoslavian Dolenz slid back into support roles and Mason and Ophuls made their Hollywood debuts with Caught, 1949.
  20. Ray Milland, A Life of Her Own, 1950.Lana Turner  nearly stalked out of  her first movie in two years when MGM  failed to land a co-star from ethe highly mixed bag of Mason, James Craig, Cary Grant, Howard Keel, James Mason, George Murphy and  Robert Ryanfor the  rich  mine owner.  Cukor chose Wendell Corey.  La Turner did not and had him fired. Enter: Ray Milland.  

  21. Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen, 1951.    Bette Davis’ dream movie.  She tried to get it going in 1938 with David Niven, in ’47 with James Mason and in ’49 with John Mills. 
  22. Thomas E Breen, The River/Le fleuve) France-India-USA, 1951.     Stars like Brando, Mason and Michael Redgrave were mulled over by realisateur Jean Renoir and his one-off producer Kenneth McEldowney  – a successful LA florist, wed to an MGM publicist. When he moaned about one of her  films, she dared him to do better. He  sold their home and businesses, and worked from 1947-1951 on  this film of Rumer Godden’s novel. Like his character of flyer Captain  John, Breen had lost a leg. (UK actor  Esmond Knight, also cast,  had lost an eye).
  23. Robert Newton, Les Miserables, 1951.     Mason passed on the French cop, Javert, for much the same reason as Anthony Hopkins in 1997. “Javert is just too unrelenting,” Hopkins told me in Paris. Mason’s quarry, Jean Valjean, would have been Jeff Chandler, before becoming Michael Rennie oppsite fellow Brit Newton. Other Javerts have included Bernard Blier, Antonio Bravo, Russell Crowe, Philippe Khorsand, John Malkovich, David Oyelowo, Anthony Perkins, Geoffrey Rush, Charles Vanel… and a most absurd looking Charles Laughton in 1935.
  24. Fredric March, Man on a Tightrope, 1951. Mason was the Fox suits’ firsty choice for the head of the Circus Brumbach, which escaped from East Germany to the West un 19560.  Director Elia Kazan preferred the veteran March.
  25. Stewart Granger, Young Bess,1952.   Back in the 40s, Queen Elizabeth I’s early years was aimed – somewhat inaccurately – at Garland! Opposite James Mason as her lover, Sir Thomas Seymour, They were far better suited, the following year as Mr and Mrs Norman Maine in A Star Is Born.(Charles Laughton was Henry VIII for the second ime… in 20 years).
  26. Cameron Mitchell, Man on a Tightrope, 1952.   New York director Elia Kazan trid to persuade him to join  the  circus troupe making a daring escape to Germany from the Communist Czechoslovakia. 
  27. Joseph Cotton, Niagara, 1953.     A week before shooting began, director Henry Hathaway accepted a dinner invitation at James Mason’s home.  And met his famously precocious daughter, Portland, six or seven.  The actor introduced him as the director of his next film. “I suppose you’re going to die again. You always die in your films.…”  She went on and on about this, even asking Hathaway: “Well, does he die?” “Yes!”  “See – you alwaysdie!”  But no… A few days later Mason pulled out of being Marilyn Monroe’s husabnd. Said Hathaway: “I should never have gone to dinner…Marilyn [Monroe] was no problem but Joe drove me mad. He has no mystery, playing everything on the one, same note. I’d say: ‘Joe, try it a different way, look I’ll show you what I mean.’  He’d listen and say: ‘Very good, I get it.’ And then he’d play the scene exactly as before!” 

  28. Rossano Brazzi, The Barefoot Contessa, 1954.    
    “The character was not only relatively unimportant but impotent. A madly competitive actor, which is  what I was at this stage of my career, does not wish to play the part of an impotent Italian count,  even if he is supposed to symbolise the  decadent culture of Europe… If Joe [Mankiewicz] had offered the impotent part to Bogart and the Bogart part to me,  he’d have had my acceptance in a flash.”   (The year before,  during  Julius Caesar, Marlon Brando said – in fact, yelled it  in an angry  outburst –  that Mason and Mankiewicz (and Mason’s wife) were three-way lovers). Brazzi, said the director, could not act or be sensual.  He “could hardly speak English.”  But that helped Mankiewicz find his third and last wife.   Rosemary Matthews was Brazzi’s English language coach!

  29. Rossano  Brazzi, Legend Of The Lost, 1956.    Mason was first idea for Bonnard who hires John Wayne to help find a lost city.  Wayne was supposed to be as French Foreign Legionnnaire but turned up on the set in cowboy clobber. Director Henry Hathaway explained why to cinematogrtapher Jack Cardiff. “He always wears the cowboy outfit!”  Apart from Vera Ralston, he always had chemistry with his leading ladies. But zilch with Sophia Loren. Too much woman for olew Duke.

  30. Alec Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1956.     Producer Sam Spiegel was more keen than director David Lean on Mason for Nicholson. Carl Foreman’s scenario was also mailed to: Ronald Colman, John Gielgud, Cary Grant, Charles Lauaghton, Ray Milland, Laurence Olivier, Eric Portman, Anthony Quayle, Ralph Richardson – and Spencer Tracy, who bluntly  told Spiegel that the mad Colonel had  to be an Englishman. “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to watch a stiff-upper-lip British colonel for two and a half hours,” said Guinness. So, Spiegel took him to dinner. “He was very persuasive.” Of course, he was. In the 50s/60s, to “Spiegel” was  LA parlance meaning: to cajole, manipulate or con. That’s how producer Spiegel won his deals, casts, women – and Guinness. “I started out maintaining that I wouldn’t play the role and by the end of the evening, we were discussing what kind of wig I would wear.”

  31. Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory, 1957.     Mason was approached about  Colonel Dax – not easy as most LAgents refused to show the script to their clients.  Kubrick, of course, later famously made Lolita with Mason, 1962.  He lost  out on    two of the greatest anti-war films, as he also turned down…

  32. Rod Steiger, Cry Terror! 1957.     Who should be the criminal brain behind the bomb planted (by Angie Dickinson!) on a Twentieth Century Airlines plane?  Not me, said Mason, settling for the electronics store owner tricked into making said bomb.  “If I’d been a littler smarter I would’ve accepted since it was a much better part than that of the nice guy.”  Yet that’s what he played again the following year  in the same director Andrew Stone’s next thriller, The Decks Ran Red.  Just rather more heroic.
  33. Michael Rennie, The Third  Man, TV,  1959-1965.     He refused a second  twist of Harry Lime. Far too busy in Hollywood.  Rennie was not and shot 77 BBC episodes as a Lime far  more gentle than  Orson Welles in  The Third Man, 1949.
  34. Charles Laughton, Sotto dieci bandiere (UK/US: Under Ten Flags, Italy-US,1959.  The Hollywood dailies insisted that Mason and Laurence Olivier were“slugging it out” (ho! ho!) to be the Royal Navy admiral  responsible for finally sinking the continually disguised German surface raider, Atlantis, which sank 22 Allied ships  during a non-stop,  665 day mission. This was the second of two fascinating WWII dramas made by Paramount in Italy that year, the other being Jovanka e le altre (US: Five  Branded Women).
  35. Rod Taylor,  The Time Machine, 1960.    To begin with, producer-director George Pal wanted a middle-aged Brit as his hero H George Wells (!) – James Mason, David Niven or Paul Scofield – before going younger with Taylor. Pal wanted Rod again for the  promised sequel, Return of the Time Traveller, not to mention Country of the Blind – they never happened. Plus The 7 Faces of Dr Lao and Power, which Taylor never fancied.
  36. David Niven, The Guns of Navarone,1960. Writer-producer Carl Foreman aimed high for  his Allied saboteurs in WWII Greece – starting with Cary Grant and Marlon Brando!  The  way-too-oldies for the mere Corporal John Anthony Miller (not even a sergeant!) were: Peter Finch Alec Guinness (Foreman scripted his Bridge on the River Kwai),  James Mason, John Mills, Kenneth More… even Dean Martin! Navarone was the 1961 box-office champ., allowing Foreman  to direct his next one, The Victors, 1962.
  37. Hurd Hatfield,   King of Kings, 1961.     Mason, rather wisely, passed on being  Pontius Pilate in Nicholas Ray’s uneven film. Pope John XXIII  approved the script.   Without knowing that scenarist Philip Yordan  saw Jesus as a cowboy… “Christ was a loner. He’s not much different than my usual character.. The man alone.”  And, indeed, Jeffrey Hunter chosen for Jesus, had made 16 Westerns,  including two for the guy who recommended him. John  Ford.  Despite being, at 35, closer to Christ’s age than per usual in Schmollywood epics, Hunter was soon dubbed “I Was a Teenage Jesus.”  Sixteen years later Mason was  Joseph of Arimathea  in TV’s Jesus of Nazareth.
  38. Herbert Lom,  Mysterious Island, 1961.      Inevitable – both the request and the refusal to reprise his Captain Nemo as his Nautilus submarine enters the tale of Union soldiers escaping a Confederate  prison in a  balloon as full of hot air as this  version of Jules Verne. Just not in the same 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, 1954!
  39. Dirk Bogarde, Victim, 1961.    “Because I wanted him..!” After Jack Hawkins fled from Britain’s first film about homosexuality, James was approached  but  had to stay outside the UK for tax reasons.
  40. Eric Portman, West 11, 1963.      UK director Michael Winner lost his third star because producer Danny Angel “thought Mason was past  it.”  Angel also said Julie Christie and Sean Connery (testing for the drama) were B-movie stock!

  41. Sean Connery, From Russia With Love, 1963.
  42. David Tomlinson, Mary Poppins, 1963.     Richard Harris, George Sanders, Donald Sutherland and Terry-Thomas were also in the mix for Mr Banks in Walt Disney’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious  version of PL Travers’ books –  an eight-Oscar trumph for Uncle Walt!   Ten years earlier,  Mason had been Captain Nemo is Disney’s take on 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Mason was not into parenting a film family until returning to his Yorkshire roots for Spring and Port Wine, 1970.
  43. Rod Steiger, Doctor Zhivago, 1964. Kirk Douglas chased after the Russian novel winning the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature. However, Rome producer Carlo Ponti secured the rights to Boris Pasternak’s book.   Ponti signed David Lean and they started casting the support role of Viktor Komarovsky. Lean and always wanted Brando for his Lawrence of Arabia, Ryan’s Daughter and his never-made Nostromo and waited a full month  but Brando, with his customary  politeness,  never bothered to reply.  Lean  next wrote to James Mason – elated by the possibilities of the role but not  by the idea of spending a full  year on it… as Steiger eventually did.
  44. Rod Steiger, The Pawnbroker, 1964.      When Arthur Hiller was to direct the story of Holocaust survivor  Sol Nazerman, now working in  Harlem. The film was finally made  (minus Mason) by Sidney Lumet – ironically, as he and Mason later made three memorable movies: The Seagull, 1968, Child’s Play, 1972, The Verdict, 1982.

  45. Richard Burton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966.    
    Broadway playwright Edward Albee was pleased with Jack Warner’s original notion of Mason v Bette Davis as George and Martha. “James Mason seemed absolutely right…   and to watch Bette Davis do that Bette Davis imitation in that first scene [‘What a dump!”] – that would have been so wonderful.” And later? “Taylor was quite good and Burton was incredible. With Mason and Davis you would have had a less flashy and ultimately deeper film.”  But Mason had already been there in 1964 and got The Pumpkin Eater tee-shirt to prove it…Thinking of their image, most actors were scared of being the emasculated husband of a blowsy Liz.. Ernest Lehman was the producer and scenarist  – well, the Burtons put all of playwright Edward  Albee’s lines back into the script, leaving just two by Lehman!.  He wanted Peter O’Toole as George. Liz liked Broadway’s George, Arthur Hill, but Jack Lemmon actually accepted the role – and changed his mind next day. (A matter, said insiders, more of money than fear).  Henry Fonda, Cary Grant and, amazingly, Glenn Ford, were also in the frame before Liz simply said: “What about Burton?”   Just like she’d said about directors: “You know who’s a genius? Mike Nichols.” That’s how  Broadway’s king started his amazing  film-directing career – after  studying the George Stevens classic, A Place in the  Sun, about 20 times.  The star of which was… Liz Taylor.

  46. Sean Connery, Thunderball, 1965.
  47. Rod Steiger, Doctor, 1965.      When Marlon Brando, with his customary  politeness,  never bothered to reply, director David Lean wrote to Mason – elated by the possibilities of Viktor Komarovsky. But preturbed by the idea of spending (as Steiger did) almost a year on it!  
  48. Anthony Quinn, A High Wind In Jamaica, 1965.       One of several properties that  Mason picked up for his new actor-producer-director deal at Fox.  He intended co-starring with Stephen Boyd and Hayley Mills.  (Quinn’s version made the stowaway kids less important).  
  49. Richard Widmark, The Bedford Incident, 1965.      Announced for Mason in 1964.
  50. Kenneth More, The White Rabbit, TV, 1967.     A decade earlier Richard Burton was to star having stupidly given another  RAF hero to Kenneth More in Reach For The Sky, 1956. Now UK producer Michael Deeley found the old script  based on the WWII  of Wing Commander FE Yeo-Thomas – he’d assisted the French  Resistance and escaped from Buchenwald.  And everyone turned Deeley down: Mason, Dirk Bogarde, John Mills. Not, however,  the  previous RAF hero… by which time it was a BBC mini-series. 

  51. Patrick McGoohan, Ice Station Zebra, 1968.     “I don’t get any offers except to play the wrong parts.”  Producer Martin Ransohoff wanted (at least) two stars from the previous Alistair MacLean thriller, The Guns of Navarone. And he got Gregory Peck for the submarine commander and David Niven as the Briish spy. For about five minutes. Maybe six. Well, however long it took to suss out the flat scenario. Enter: Rock Hudson and McGoohan 
  52. Harry Andrews The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1968.     Mason as Lord Lucan in The Reason Why, was on director  Michael Powell’s 1952 list of a dozen projects.   Tony Richardson won the Light Brigade battle.  Mason and Powell made Age of Consent, 1969 (in Australia, launching Helen Mirren) and talked (endlessly) about The Tempest.
  53. Fred Astaire, The Midas Run, 1969.      Continually passed over for a knighthood, a UK secret service veteran seeks revenge with a  gold bullion robbery. So, I know,   let’s get.. . Fred Astaire!  Absurd.
  54. Harry  Andrews,  Entertaining  Mr.  Sloane, 1970.     Ex-TV director Silvio Narizzano aimed for Vivien Leigh and James. “He was afraid of the whole sexual theme.”  Narizzano ultimately quit to helm another Joe Orton piece, the much funnier Loot.
  55. Robert Hardy, Demons of the Mind, 1971.  Hammer Films’ horrors were  running out of steam. Its  new (indeed almost last)  villain, Baron Zorn, was aimed at Dirk Bogarde,  Paul Scofield and either of the studio’s stalwarts: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Eric Porter took it over, and was then switched to another  Hammer vehicle: Hands of the Ripper. And so Hardy (who would later play Winston  Churchill a record six times) had  the messy honour of  being  impaled on a flaming cross…. (In what proved his final film, Mason substituted an injured Scofield in The Shooting Party, 1984).
  56. Michel Bouquet Paulina 1880, France, 1972.      Realisateur Jean-Louis Bertucelli wanted him for the  titular heroine’s father.
  57. John Houseman, The Paper Chase, l973.     Mason was ill. Writer-director James Bridges thought about Melvyn Douglas, John Gielgud, Edward G Robinson, Paul Scofield and then sent for his old teacher at UCLA’s Theatre Group, the man who had organised Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre and was now  teaching people like Robin Williams at New York’s Juilliard School.  “Get Edward G Robinson,” said Houseman.  Robinson was also ill and so “this perfectly glorious part” won an Oscar for “this ageing and obscure schoolmarm” in his third film at age 73. He won  another  45   roles in his final 13 years.
  58. Buck Henry, The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1975.   Mason  topped director Nic Roeg ‘s wish list for Oliver Farnsworth  – presiding over all the planet earth business venture of David Bowie’s “just  visiting”alien, known as Thomas Jerome Newton. “My life isn’t secret, Mr Farnsworth, but it is private.”
  59. Max von Sydow, Voyage of the Damned, 1976.      More like Film of the Damned.
  60. Curt Jurgens, The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977.

  61. Wendy Hiller, The Cat and the Canary, 1977.   Crosby, the lawyer, was written in this Agatha Christie pastiche – and again by director Radley Metzger – as male.  Mason was among many who passed. And so, Metzger (also known in New York as porno director Henry Paris) finally worked wih a genuine  Dame…
  62. Michael Lonsdale, Moonraker, 1979.
  63. Burt Lancaster, Atlantic City, 1979.    Among Paris auteur Louis Malle’s choices  (Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Laurence Olivier) for the aging numbers runner (“a cellmate of Bugsy Siegel”) involved with an oyster-bar waitress and an ex-Betty Grable lookalike. Made after the chagrin  of losing his 20-year-old dream project, Victory, Malle’s little gem won five Oscar nominations in 1982.
  64. Heathcote Williams, The Tempest, 1979.    The closest that Mason got to UK director  Michael Powell’s 25 year dream of filming the Shakespeare play was in 1975, with their Age of Consent  film. Mason grew his wondrous beard. So did the project…   According to Dominic Nolan in The Greatest Movies You’ll Never See book, Derek Jarman felt he’d inherited Powell’s obsession. Hah! He made a  (typically) homoerotic job of it  in 1979.   New York Times critic Vincent Canby was unimpressed: “funny if it weren’t very nearly unbearable,” and Williams was “often intelligible.”
  65. Jack Warden, The Verdict, 1982.   Mason was always keen to work some more with  New York  director Sidney Lumet again (after The  Deadly Affair, The Sea Gull and Child’s Play during 1966-19671).  He was, however, decidedly un-smitten with the offered Mickey Morrisssey, best pal of Paul Newman’s alcohollic lawyer. Then,  by chance, Burt  Lancaster had to quit being Newman’’s courtroom adversary  – perfect for the silver tongued  Mason… in his final American film   PS: How’s this for a coincidence. In 1924, William Collier Jr made a movie called The Verdict.  His role was… Jimmy Mason.
  66. Frank Finlay, Lifeforce, 1984.  
  67. Vassili Langos, Bordelo, Greece, 1985.    According to local film-maker Nicos Koundouros, he had them all in the bag: Mason, Isabelle Adjani, Sophia Loren, Peter Ustinov. Except… he didn’t. None of them! He did have Marina Vlady and she was aghast at how he made nonense of her role. Apart from the Thessaloniki festival  (twice in 1985 and 1998!), the film was never seen anywhere.
  68. Timothy Dalton, The Doctor and The Devils, 1985.      Michael Redgrave could not get the sole script by  Dylan Thomas rolling in 1948 with director Fritz Lang. Hollywood’s Nicholas Ray also failed with Mason – then Maximilian Schell. Laurence Harvey had no success either in 1965. In all, the scenario of Swansea’s self-styled “Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive” remained shelved for 37 years  – a record delay between the completion and shooting of a script.
  69. Ian McKellen, Apt Pupil US-France-Canada, 1997.  The 62nd of Stephen King’s staggering 313 screen credits  was a cursed “short book.”  Take One: James Mason  was set for  Kurt Dussander jn 1984 but died from a heart attack.  His replacement, Richard Burton, also died before filming began, from a cerebral hemorrhage.   Take Two: Nicol Williamson and Ricky Schroder  were Dussander and Todd when the money ran out of Alan Bridges’ take with ten days to go in  1987. (King saw 75% of the “really good” film).  Take Three:  Bryan Singer directed Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro (as the Nazi and his US teenager blackmailer. Chicago critic Roger Ebert slapped it down as “an uneasy hybrid of the sacred and the profane.”
  70. Sam Riley, SS-GB, TV, 2017.  “Soon to be a major motion picture” screamed the cover of Len Deighton’s what-if-Hitler-won novel in 1978. Because producer Harry Alan Towers (more usually into horror and soft-core sex) planned a UK-Canada co-production. Financing collapsed. ”Soon” became 39 year later… and a mini-series  by 007 scenarists  Neill Purvis andd Robert Wade…  with Mason’s ‘78 role  going to Rilet, far too young looking for a Detective Superintendant. Paradoxically, of ten reviews found on IMDb, six are German.















 Birth year: 1909Death year: 1984Other name: Casting Calls:  70