Between 1950 and 1959, James Neville Mason appeared in 35-roles, this is mainly a look at 11 of those.
He was born on May 15, 1909, in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, James was the youngest of three sons, born to a wealthy wool merchant, whose business was centered in France and Belgium, John Mason. His mother Mabel Hattersley Mason, was extremely well-educated for a woman at the time.
What direction his life would take, did not seem to be indicated by his education. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, he attended Marlborough College, in Marlborough, Wiltshire, and moved on to Peterhouse, Cambridge, the oldest college that makes up the University of Cambridge. There he took a first, in the British undergraduate degree classifications, in architecture.
In 1931, the young actor made his stage debut in the town of Aldershot, Hampshire, in a production of "The Rascal". After which, he joined the prestigious "Old Vic", under the tutelage of Sir William Tyrone Guthrie.
Born Pamela Helen Oster, was an English actress, authoress, and screenplay writer, aka: Pamela Kellino, from her first marriage. In February, 1941, she became Mrs. James Mason.
Three films featured the married couple of Pamela and James Mason following "The Man in Grey". However, for the first two, Pamela Mason was billed as Pamela Kellino, and for the third, she was billed, but uncredited, by her married name. Before I go to the movies this article is directly about, I want to speak to the second of those three.
"The Upturned Glass", premiered in London on June 17, 1947. The screenplay for this psychological film-noir, was co-written by Pamela Kellino, from a story by co-writer, John Monaghan billed as Jno. P. Monoghan.
With its murky, noir-like passages, The Upturned Glass carries the seeds of the psycho-thriller genre that would become enormously popular just over a decade later, and James Mason's paranoic killer is a virtual template for the run of unsuspected murdering fiends that would chill audiences from 1960, onwards, beginning with Carl Boehm's Mark Lewis in Pepping Tom and Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates in Psycho.
British brain surgeon "Michael Joyce", portrayed by James Mason, falls in love with the mother of one of his patients, "Emma Wright", portrayed by Rosamund John.
"Emma" falls out of a second-floor window in her country manor home, but was it really as the coroner's inquests ruled, an accident? "Dr. Joyce" suspects, murder, and when he learns that "Emma's" sister-in-law, "Kate Howard", portrayed by Pamela Kellino, planned to blackmail her. "Dr. Joyce" plans to get revenge for his lost love, first by making "Kate" fall in love with him, and next, taking her to "Emma's" country manor house's second-floor window and pushing her out. However, is he correct that it was "Kate" that killed "Emma", and was he right that she was murdered?
The motion picture was directed by Argentine born, Hugo Fregonese. This was the fifth movie he had directed, the first four were in Argentina. He would direct several westerns for "Universal Pictures", but I recommend three, the 1954, American Civil War feature, "The Raid", starring Van Heflin, Anne Bancroft and Richard Boone, the 1958 adventure, "Harry Black and the Tiger", starring Stewart Granger and Barbara Rush, and Fregonese's 1965 Argentine western, "The Savage Pampas", starring Robert Taylor.
The story and screenplay was by Lawrence Kimble. Among his B-movies is 1937's, "Submarine D-1", starring Pat O'Brien, George Bent, and Wayne Morris, 1942's, "Bells of Capistrano", starring Gene Autry, Champion, and Smiley Burnette, and 1945's, "Zombies on Broadway", starring the comedy team of Wally Brown and Alan Carney, with co-star Bela Lugosi,
James Mason portrayed "Dr. Frank Matson".
"Frank" and "Laura" start to drive away from "Wheeler's" apartment house, but are surprised by "Wheeler's" hired killer, "Arnie", portrayed by Jack Elam. There's a fight in the car and the gunman is killed.
Hearing about the accident, "Wheeler" starts to hunt the two down. They've crossed the Mexican border and hired a plane, but after a while the old airplane breaks down near a small village. "Frank" and "Laura" are approached by "Father Moreno", portrayed by Basil Ruysdael, a priest who offers them food and lives outside of the village. "Father Moreno" scares off two local Mexican bandit brothers, "Francisco Morales", portrayed by Rodolfo Acosta, and "Antonio Morales", portrayed by Margarito Luna.
After "Father Moreno" reveals to "Frank Matson" that "John Wheeler" is still looking for him. "Frank" decides to return the money and settle with "Wheeler". He also promises "Father Moreno" that he will permit him to conduct a marriage ceremony when he returns to the village. Together, "Laura" and "Frank" travel to California, and before he meets with "John Wheeler", "Frank Matson" tells "Laura Thorsen" how much he loves her and how she has made his life worthwhile.
At "Wheeler's" apartment, "Frank" finds "Ollie", who has killed the other and demands the money. "Frank" reaches into his medical bag to give it to him, but instead shoots and kills the other through it with a concealed pistol. "Frank" now returns to "Laura", who is waiting across the street from the apartment building. She hurries across the street to him, but he leaves to call the airlines for tickets back to Mexico City.
If an uncredited actor portraying a "Truck Driver" looks familiar? That's Rock Hudson in his third role.
James Mason followed "One Way Street" with two other films in the eleven I want to mention, both in 1951. For the first, James Mason returned to the United Kingdom.
PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN released in the United Kingdom on February 1, 1951
Described as a fantasy romance drama, based upon the legend of the flying dutchman. The ghost ship, allegedly not able to ever make land. The legend goes back to the 17th century "Golden Age", of the Dutch East India Company.
The screenplay is by the producer and director, Albert Lewin. Lewin also wrote and directed the 1942 version of "W. Somerset Maugham's, "The Moon and Sixpence", and the classic version of playwright Oscar Wilde's, 1945's, "The Picture of Dorian Gray".
Esperanza's small group of English expatriates revolve around "Pandora Reynolds", an alluring American nightclub singer that the men would die for. In fact, "Reggie Demarest", portrayed by Marius Goring, will drink poison and commit suicide in front of "Pandora" and their friends, over the love she will not give him.
"Pandora" and "Stephen" take that drive in his race car and stop at a cliff with a beautiful view of the sea. They see a schooner off in the distance and "Stephen" remarks that it looks like "The Flying Dutchman". "Pandora" tells the "Stephen" he should marry "Janet", but he states that he's in love with her. "Pandora" has a habit of testing her admirers, by having them give her something of value. So, she tells "Stephen" to take his most precious possession, the racing car, and send it off the cliff, and she will marry him, which he does. "Pandora" then says she will marry "Stephen" in six months.
Once on board the schooner, "Pandora Reynolds" wraps herself in a canvas, approaches the main salon, and enters to see a man painting a portrait.
The man, who is Dutch, introduces himself as "Henrik van der Zee", and asks her name. When she reveals it, the Dutchman seems amused, because he is painting a portrait of the mythical Greek legend "Pandora". However, "Pandora Reynolds" becomes shocked, when the portrait looks exactly like herself, and for some unknown reason, tries to ruin it. Just then, "Stephen" and "Geoff" cry out from a motorboat, and before she leaves, gets "Henrik" to promise to dine with the group the following night.
"Henrik" moves into a villa and becomes part of "Pandora's" circle. One evening in late August, "Henrik van der Zee" visits "Geoff", who has a 17th century manuscript that "Henrik" has promised him, he will help translate.
In the 17th Century, a wealthy captain returns home from a voyage and is eager to see his beautiful, young wife. While he looks upon her, he becomes certain that she has been unfaithful, pulling out his knife, the sea captain stabs and kills his wife.
When he is tried and convicted of murder, the sea captain tells the judge that he could sail the oceans for eternity and never find a faithful woman.
A short time later, "Juan Montalvo", portrayed by Mario Cabre, Spain's greatest matador, returns to Esperanza, and invites them all to a midnight bullfight. He had once been "Pandora's" lover.
The next day at a bullfight, "Juan" goes for the kill, but sees "Henrik" sitting in the audience next to "Pandora", and stunned at the sight, is gored several times by the bull.
"Pandora" finishes the manuscript, swims out to the schooner, reunites with "Henrik", reveals her deep love of him, and schooner leaves port. An extremely violent storm suddenly appears and "Pandora" tells her love she is not afraid.
THE DESERT FOX premiered in London, England on October 11, 1951
Writing the screenplay was assigned to Nunnally Johnson. Among Johnson's screenplays is John Ford's, 1936, "The Prisoner of Shark Island". Along with John Ford's, 1940, "The Grapes of Wrath", based upon the John Steinbeck novel, and John Ford's, 1941, "Tobacco Road", based upon the Erskine Caldwell novel,
Assigned to direct the film was Henry Hathaway. Hathaway had just directed a very hard edge, for the time, western, 1951's, "Rawhide", starring Susan Hayward and Tyrone Power. He would follow this picture with the Tyrone Power, and Patricia Neal, 'Diplomatic Courier".
James Mason portrayed "Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel", Nunnally Johnson had the name wrong. James Mason would have a cameo role as "Rommel" in 1953's, "The Desert Rats", starring Richard Burton and Robert Newton, directed by Robert Wise.
Brigadier Desmond Young portrayed himself, at the time, "Lieutenant Colonel Desmond Young".
June 1942, many British soldiers, including "Lt. Col. Desmond Young" are captured in North Africa. "Field Marshal Rommel" impresses captured "Desmond Young" by his following proper prisoner-of-war policies and his gentlemanly demeaner as a principled soldier not interested in the politics of Berlin.
Two-years-and-four-months-later, "Field Marshal Erwin Rommel" is dead! According to the Germans, he died in battle, but rumors spread about his death. After the war, "Desmond Young" decides to investigate and goes to speak to his widow, "Lucie Marie Rommel", and his son, "Manfred Rommel", portrayed by William Reynolds, 1957's, "The Land Unknown", and televisions "The F.B.I.", 1966 - 1974.
A phone call from "Adolph Hitler" brings orders for the Field Marshal to return to the Afrika Korps immediately. Hitler is mad that the British Eighth Army under "General Bernard Law Mongomery", portrayed by Trevor Ward, is poised for the Second Battle of El Alamein, October 23, 1942 through November 11, 1942.
What is not mentioned in the screenplay, is the reality of the situation that "Adolph Hitler" had put "Field Marshal Rommel" in to fight the Second Battle of El Alamein against "General Montgomery".
When "Rommel" first receives the message, he believes it does not come from "Hitler", but instead "the clowns" surrounding "The Fuhrer". He asks that it be verified and sent again, when he gets the same message, "Rommel" crumples the paper and plans not to follow it.
After ten-days of battle, "Rommel" realizes that he must retreat to save his men, and sends a message to Berlin. The reply he again receives, is "Hitler's" orders to stand and fight to the last man. Infuriated by "Adolph Hitler's" stupidity, "Rommel" disobeys his orders.
Once more, not mentioned in the screenplay, is the reality of the result of the battle. "Bernard Law Montgomery" had an estimated total of 13,500 dead, wounded, missing, or captured. While "Erwin Rommel" had an estimated 9,000 dead or missing, 15,000 wounded, and 49,000 captured.
"Rommel" falls ill again and returns to Germany, after which in Tunis, the allies decimate the Germans and Italians. In Germany, "Erwin Rommel" is visited by an old friend, "Dr. Karl Strolin", the mayor of Stuttgart, who is part of a secret group wanting to eliminate "Hitler", before his unwise military decisions destroy Germany. "Erwin Rommel" is bitter over the deaths of his troops, but is not ready to join a plot against "Adolph Hitler".
November 1943, it is clear that the allies will be invading Europe and Germany shortly, "Rommel" is assigned to inspect the French coast line defenses. He reports to "Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt" that all the defenses are inadequate. "Von Rundstedt" informs "Rommel" that all military decisions are being made personally by "Adolph Hitler", who is under the influence of astrologers. "Von Rundstedt" adds, that "Erwin Rommel" will be very closely watched, as all the military leaders are now being.
"Von Rundstedt" admits knowledge of the plot to kill "Adolph Hitler", but also admits he's to old to be a rebel and will not take part.
"Rommel" is back at the front, his car is bombed by allied aircraft, and he is hospitalized, unconscious, when the attempt to kill "Hitler" fails. Over the next three-months, the recovering "Erwin Rommel" is surprised at the lack of coverage about him in the news, as he is extremely popular with the German people.
Michael Wilson wrote the screenplay, but he became "blacklisted", and it took from 1962 to 1978, for Wilson to have his name restored as the writer of "Lawrence of Arabia". Prior to this screenplay, Michael Wilson had just written 1951's, "A Place in the Sun", that starred Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Shelley Winters.
James Mason portrayed "Ulysses Diello".
Later the same night, German military attaché "L. C. Moyzisch", portrayed by Oskar Karlweiss, is approached by a mysterious man offering to sell top secret British documents for 20,000 English pounds.
When the British, Turkish foreign office, begins to suspect that "Fritz von Papen" may be involved in espionage. The British counter-intelligence service sends agent "Colin Travers" to Ankara.
In Ankara, "Diello" has his own room in "Anna's" villa and their relationship seems to be getting closer to each other. However, he is now worried that "Anna's" sudden change in financial situation is making her a target of the suspicions of "Colin Travers". To complicate the situation further, the Germans are thinking that "Anna" is British intelligence and "Ulysses" is working for her.
"Von Richter" meets "Diello", who insists all the documents he has been providing are genuine and his motives are strictly monetary.
However, on the morning they are to leave, "Diello" is stunned to discover that "Anna" took the money, fled to Switzerland, and left behind a mysterious letter to "Sir Fredrick". Desperate for money, "Ulysses Diello" calls "L. C. Moyzisch" and informs him he will deliver the "Operation Overlord" documents to him in Istanbul.
"Diello'" removes the fuse leading to to the alarm system and photographs the documents in the safe, but when a cleaning woman replaces the fuse, the alarm sounds, and "Travers" sees "Diello" running away. Figuring out the other man's scheme, "Colin Travers" and his men will follow "Ulysses Diello" to Istanbul, where "Travers" is prepared to kill him rather than have "Diello" turn over the documents to the Germans. While, "Von Richter" has sent men to Istanbul to also kill "Diello", to prevent him from being taken and talking to the British.
While the two sides men are on their ways to Istanbul to kill him, on the train "Ulysses Diello" reads the letter "Anna" wrote to "Sir Fredrick".
Realizing that the Germans plan to kill him, "Ulysses Diello" turns himself in to "Colin Travers", but soon runs away from the agents. While in Ankara, "Von Papen" receives a letter from "Anna Staviska" telling him that "Diello" is actually a British spy. As a result, "Von Papen" throws away the real documents about "Operation Overland", for the June 6, 1944, Allied Invasion of Europe.
As he is taken away, "Diello" says:
Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz would follow this motion picture with 1954's, "The Barefoot Contessa", starring Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner.
William Shakespeare was given on-screen credit for writing the original play, but it was the uncredited Mankiewicz who adapted it for the motion picture screen.
Marlon Brando was nominated for the "Best Actor Academy Award", for the third consecutive time, and won the "BAFTA" for "Best Foreign Actor".
PRINCE VALIANT released on April 5, 1954
The motion picture was once more directed by Henry Hathaway. Hathaway had just directed 1953's, "White Witch Doctor", starring Susan Hayward, Robert Mitchum, and Walter Slezak. He would follow this straight from the Sunday Newspaper's Comic Strips, with another western with Susan Hayward, 1954's, "Garden of Evil", with co-stars, Gary Cooper and Richard Widmark.
The screenplay based upon Hal Foster's comic strip was by Dudley Nichols. Among his screenplays were director John Ford's, 1934, "The Lost Patrol", 1935's, "The Informer", and 1939's, "Stagecoach". Just before this movie, Nichols wrote director Howard Hawks', 1952, "The Big Sky", and he followed this feature film with the Richard Widmark, Trevor Howard, and Jane Greer, 1956, "Run for the Sun".
James Mason portrayed "Sir Brack". He had just appeared with his wife Pamela Mason, billed as such, in 1954's, "Charade". The screenplay contained three short stories with the two portraying three different roles each. Keeping it in the family, so-to-speak, the motion picture was directed by Pamela's ex-husband, Roy Kellino.
"Valiant" upon his return to Camelot, discovers that "Sir Gawain" went looking for the young prince and was also attacked by the "Black Knight" and "Sligon's" Vikings. The young prince speaks to "Sir Gawain" about his suspicions that "Sir Brack" may be the "Black Knight", but "Gawain" tells him to suppress search suspicions about a "Knight of the Round Table".
Some time later, the sisters and their father attend a tournament at Camelot, and "King Luke" adds "Aleta" as an extra prize to the winner of the joust without consulting her.
For being so presumptuous, "Prince Valiant", is confined to his quarters and forced to attend to "Sir Gawain". A mysterious messenger arrives in Camelot, and meets with "Sir Brack". Later that night, the seal ring of "Valiant's" father, "King Aguar", is tossed through the window of "Sir Gawain's" chambers and is picked-up by "Valiant". This was a planned signal that his parents are in trouble, "Valiant" immediately leaves Camelot with "Aleta" wondering why?
Outside of Camelot, as "Prince Valiant" heads for his home, he is ambushed by the "Black Knight" and "Sligon's" Vikings, as the "Black Knight" reveals himself to be "Sir Brack".
As the prisoners are about to be executed, a group of Christian Vikings led by "Boltar" stage a revolt. "Boltar", enters the castle, frees "Valiant" and the others, and "Prince Valiant" joins "Boltar's" plan of attack. Once "Boltar" assassinates "Sligon", "Valiant" will give a signal to their main force to attack the castle. However, "Prince Valiant" is discovered before "Sligon" is dead and the Christian Vikings are given a false signal and attack the castle.
At one point, "Valiant" loses his sword and picks-up the enchanted Viking "Singing Sword", which of course leads to the death of "Sir Brack".
The screenplay was by Earl Felton, who started writing screenplays in 1935. In 1949, he wrote the screenplay for director Preston Sturges' comedy western, "The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend", starring Betty Grable, Cesar Romero, and Rudy Vallee. In 1952, Felton wrote the crime film-noir, "The Last Vegas Story", starring Jane Russell and Victor Mature, featuring Vincent Price, and in 1956, he wrote "Bandido!", starring Robert Mitchum, Ursula Thiess, and Gilbert Roland.
The motion picture was directed by Max Fleischer's son, Richard Fleischer. He was chosen, because he understood both animation and live action features and their correlation to each other. Walter Elias Disney felt Ricard Fleischer was the best director for his envisioned "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", and Disney's animosity toward the father was put aside.
Among Richard Fleischer's later movies is 1956's, "Bandido!", 1958's, "The Vikings", starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Ernest Borgnine, the 1966 science fiction, "The Fantastic Voyage", and the American footage in 1970's, "Tora, Tora, Tora".
James Mason portrayed "Captain Nemo". There have been several actors portraying "Captain Nemo", and only one motion picture calling him by his birth name of "Dakkar". My article is "Captain Nemo Movie Star", found at:
Because of the monster, French marine biologist, "Professor Pierre Aronnax" of the Paris Museum and his apprentice/assistant "Conseil", find themselves stranded in New York City. The United States' "State Department" offers the two a means of reaching their destination by a roundabout means, taking a few months on a Naval warship to prove, or disapprove, the existence of the sea monster.
One of the theories circulating is that the monster is a giant narwhal, normally a medium-sized whale with a tusk like protrusion on its head, that for some unknown reason is attacking and punching a hole in the side of the wooden sailing ships causing them to sink.
The professor and his assistant accept and with harpooner "Ned Land" (in the novel a Canadian) board a United States Navy frigate the "Abraham Lincoln", and go in search of the monstrous narwhal. "Captain Farragut", portrayed by Ted de Corsia, below center, has searched the Pacific Ocean for the last six-months without results. He calls a meeting to discuss his options and that he believes his mission has been completed. He now plans to take the professor and his assistant to their original oriental port of destination, or any other port they may choose.
Everyone on board has relaxed, when the monster is spotted just setting still in the water, as if studying the frigate.
The professor and his assistant watch the "Abraham Lincoln" move away from them, helpless, and facing exhaustion and drowning they come across what appears to be the monster sleeping. After reaching the monster, "Professor Aronnax" realizes in is a underwater ship, a submarine, and starts to explore a seemingly empty craft.
The two come to a room, the captain's quarters, and an open window looking into the Pacific Ocean, but underwater. "Professor Aronnax" is transfixed by an underwater funeral and points out to "Conseil" the tall man that appear to be the leader.
A voice is heard coming from outside and "Conseil" goes up and finds "Ned Land" on the top of the upside-down longboat and asks the other for help flipping it over. The leader of the funeral has noticed "Professor Aronnax" at the window and gives hand signal instructions to the crew members with him. "Professor Aronnax" joins "Ned" and "Conseil" in the longboat and the three attempt to get away from the submarine boat.
"Captain Nemo" suggests that "Ned" and "Conseil" might like to get their own food and the two find themselves in diving suits walking not on the Island of Crespo, but under it.
"Professor Aronnax" does not reveal the history of "Nemo" to "Conseil" and "Ned", but makes the mistake of mentioning "Vulcania" as the destination for the "Nautilus". Now "Ned" looks for charts that might tell him the location of "Captain Nemo's" base and throws out messages with that information in bottles.
The "Nautilus" next becomes stranded on a reef opposite New Guinea and must wait out high tide to free itself. "Conseil" asks if he can go ashore to gather specimens, is given approval, but "Captain Nemo" warns "Ned Land" to stay on the shore, because the island is inhabited by cannibals. Of course, "Ned" wants to escape, disregards "Nemo's" warning, goes inland himself, finds signs of cannibals, returns to the shore with the cannibals coming after him and now "Conseil.
Meanwhile, below decks, "Ned Land" is freed and is attempting to find out what's happening. A crewmember falls down the steps in front of "Ned" and he sees the markings of the suction cups from the squid's tentacles on the face.
The "Nautilus" arrives at "Vulcania", only to see the island surrounded by warships, and "Captain Nemo" decides to enter through a narrow underwater tunnel system. "Ned" attempts to wave at the soldiers climbing the island's hill, yelling they're the ones who sent the messages. "Professor Aronnax" is shocked and informs both "Ned" and "Conseil" that "Nemo" is going to blow-up the island.
There is hope for the future. And when the world is ready for a new and better life, all this will someday come to pass, in God's good time.
James Mason next co-starred in the first of three American remakes to date of a classic 1937's love story, drama. For those of my readers who are interested in all four remakes, my article is "A STAR IS BORN' X 4: Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand and Lady Gaga", found at:
A STAR IS BORN premiered in Los Angeles on September 29, 1954
The screen writing credits for the motion picture are very interesting. On screen the screenplay is credited to "Tony Award" winning playwright Moss Hart. Hart started writing screenplays in 1932 and among his work is the Helen Morgan and Chester Morris, 1936, "Frankie and Johnnie", 1947's, 'Gentleman's Agreement", starring Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, and John Garfield, and Danny Kaye's, 1952, "Hans Christian Anderson".
The story is credited back to 1937, and director William A. Wellman, who directed the first "Best Motion Picture Academy Award" winner, 1927's, "Wings". Wellman had been an American flyer for the French during the First World War. My article on his flying career and three of his motion pictures is "WILLIAM A. 'WILD BILL' WELLMAN: '3' with JOHN WAYNE: 'Island in the Sky', 'The High and the Mighty', and 'Blood Alley", at:
Additional credit mentioned from the 1937 production in screenplay writing was for Robert Carson, 1937's, "The Last Gangster", starring Edward G. Robinson, 1939's, "The Light That Failed", starring Ronald Colman, and Fritz Lang's, 1941, "Western Union".
Both William Wellman and Robert Carson are credited in the 1976 and 2018 versions as the source for the story.
Continuing from the 1937 writing credits mentioned in 1954, are Dorothy Parker, 1941's, "The Little Foxes" starring Bette Davis, and Alfred Hitchcock's, 1942, "Saboteur".
Alan Campbell, the Gary Cooper and Merle Oberon, 1938, "The Cowboy and the Lady", and the 1938, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, and Frank Morgan, "Sweethearts".
The motion picture was directed by George Cukor. He started directing in 1930, it is of interesting note that George Cukor was the director of 1932, "What Price Hollywood?", starring Constance Bennett. Which had a very similar story line as the 1937 "A Star Is Born", and accusations of plagiarism still are made as of this writing. Some of Cukor's other work includes the Katharine Hepburn, 1933, "Little Women", Katherine Hepburn's, 1935, "Silvia Scarlett", the Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, 1938, "Holiday", and the 1940, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart, "The Philadelphia Story".
Judy Garland portrayed "Vickie Lester". In 1950, Judy Garland co-starred with Gene Kelly in the musical "Summer Stock". Then there was a four-year, non-active period, that included a marriage to Sidney Luft, and the birth of her daughter, Lorna. This motion picture was to be Garland's big come back, and she was nominated for the "Best Actress Academy Award", but right after filming was completed, Judy Garland started complaining about being ill, as she had at MGM, and it wouldn't be until director Stanley Kramer's, 1961,"Judgement at Nuremberg" that Judy Garland returned to the motion picture screen in a dramatic role that was nominated for the "Best Supporting Actress Academy Award". For those who may be interesting in a young Judy Garland, my article is "Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney: Their Movies Together" at:
James Mason portrayed "Norman Maine". Like his co-star, Judy Garland, James Mason was nominated for an "Academy Award", and did not win.
Jack Carson portrayed "Matt Libby". Carson was a solid supporting actor who was known more for his comic roles than drama, but as with most good comedians. It was his dramas such as 1945's, "Mildred Pierce", co-starring with Joan Crawford and Zachary Scott, or the 1958, Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor's, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" that he excelled. Three of his semi-comedy roles are in, 1939's, "Destry Rides Again", starring James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich. The same years "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" again with James Stewart, and first billed Jean Arthur, and the Gary Grant dark comedy 1944's, "Arsenic and Old Lace".
After the show "Norman" thanks "Esther" for saving him from embarrassment. He takes a lip stick and makes a heart on the wall of the Shrine Auditorium. Next, he asks her out for dinner, but she declines. She has another gig at the "Coconut Grove" with "Danny McGuire".
During their moments together, "Maine" mentions "Oliver Niles", the studio head, and tells "Esther" he will arrange a meeting with him for the next day. However, two things happen the following day that change "Esther's" feelings toward him.
The now unemployed young woman has to become a waitress and moves to a very shabby apartment.
Weeks past and finally "Norman Maine" returns and is able to both straighten things out with "Esther", but also get her a bit part in a movie. The role puts "Esther" in a blonde wig with a prosthetic nose. "Maine" is mad and goes to "Niles" to give her a singing screen test. The studio head is more than impressed and "Vicki Lester" is born.
After the funeral as "Vicki" leaves the church an overflowing crowd of morbid fans close in around her and she experiences a nervous breakdown. This results in "Esther Blodgett Maine" becoming a recluse.
"Danny McGuire" arrives at her Malibu Beach house to take "Esther" to a benefit concert she promised to attend prior to "Norman's" death. She refuses to go, but "Danny" reminds "Esther" of what "Norman" gave her. She agrees to go to the concert that is, as at the start of the motion picture, at the "Shrine Auditorium". Backstage she notices the lip stick heart "Norman" once made and her attitude changes.
She comes out and addresses the large gathering.
HELLO EVERYBODY. THIS IS MRS. NORMAN MAINE.
For his next motion picture, James Mason starred in a very controversial screenplay from a very controversial novel for the 1950's.
ISLAND IN THE SUN premiered in New York City on June 12, 1957
The 1955 best-selling novel was written by London, England, born Alec Waugh. The book was very controversial dealing with race relations on a British held island and interracial love.
The British screenplay writer was Alfred Hayes. His latest motion picture was 1955's, "The Left Hand of God", that starred Humphrey Bogart, Gene Tierney, and Lee J. Cobb. He followed this motion picture by co-writing the screenplay for 1957's, "A Hateful of Rain", with blacklisted and uncredited Carl Foreman.
The motion picture was directed by Robert Rosen, he had just produced, written, and directed the excellent 1955, "Alexander the Great", starring Richard Burton, Fredric March, and Claire Bloom. He followed this feature by writing and directing, 1959's, "They Came to Cordura", starring Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin, and Tab Hunter.
James Mason portrayed "Maxwell Fleury".
According to "Variety", June 19, 1957, because of her interracial scenes with Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine received "poison pen mail", that included threats from the Ku Klux Klan. The actress turned all of this mail over to the FBI.
The movie's title song, "Island in the Sun", was written by Harry Belafonte and Irving Burgie. The major hit has over 40 cover artists and was parodied in 1992's, "The Muppet Christmas Carol".
The setting is a fictious British West Indian Island, named Santa Marta.
The screenplay based upon the novel is a look at the complex relationships of four couples, of black, white and mixed race.
The "Fleury's, "Maxwell", his wife "Sylvia," and younger sister, "Jocelyn", attend a garden party at the governor's house in honor of his son "Euan Templeton", who is visiting the island on his way to Oxford. At the party is American investigative reporter, "Bradshaw", portrayed by Hartley Power.
"Maxwell" is called over to a group of men who want him to run against "David Boyeur" to protect the white majority rule of their island.
Later, "Maxwell" finds "Sylvia" with "Harry Carson" and notices that he smokes the same brand of Egyptian cigarette he found the butt in the ashtray from and he becomes somewhat aggressive toward the other.
The next day, after making his decision, "Maxwell" informs his parents that he wants to run for the legislature. "Maxwell's" father expresses skepticism over his running, and his son explodes, and accuses his parent of favoring their late son, "Arthur", who died a war hero, and whines that he'd been better off born black.
That night, "Maxwell" confronts a drunken "Carlson" on the streets, and forces his way into the other's house. "Maxwell" demands that "Carlson" leave "Sylvia" alone, but the drunken "Carlson" replies with a racial slur about "Maxwell" being black. In a rage, "Maxwell Fleury" attacks "Hilary Carlson" and strangles him to death. He next makes the death appear to be from a robbery gone wrong.
The second effect of the newspaper article is to "Maxwell". He holds a political rally and acknowledges the fact that his great-grandmother was black, and states how proud he is to be bi-racial. However, a group of black islanders claim that "Maxwell" is attempting to get their votes with his words and "David" steps forward and quiets them down. However, "Maxwell's" mouth gets in his way, and he blurts out:
I never wanted to be one of you
Back at the plantation, "Maxwell Fleury" is in his locked bathroom with two objects. One is a pistol, the other a copy of "Crime and Punishment" sent to him by "Colonel Whittington". He cannot pull the trigger on the gun, smashes his hand against the mirror, leaves the bathroom to find the chief of police and turn himself in.
"Dennis", whose love for "Margo" has displeased the governor, resigns his post, and asks her to accompany him to London. There he plans to write his exposé of the island of Santa Marta.
The newly married "Jocelyn" and "Euan" board an airplane for England. They are followed by "Dennis" and "Margo".
On the ground watching the airplane take off are "Mavis" and "David". She suggests that the two also take an airplane to another country and get married. He replies that his skin is his country, and that his people would never understand a relationship with a white woman.
The movie ends with "Mavis" walking away, alone.
NORTH BY NORTHWEST premiered in Chicago, Illinois, on July 1, 1959
The motion picture was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. He had just released 1958's, "Vertigo", starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, and followed this feature film with 1960's, "Psycho", starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and with third-co-star, Janet Leigh. I looked at five of "Hitch's" films that are obscure to many non-fans in my article, "HITCHCOCK: A Scarf and a Medical Bag, A Conscience, 19th Century Ship Wreckers, The Third Dimension, and A Roving Dead Body", at:
The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman. In 1954, Lehman wrote the screenplays for both "Executive Suite", and "Sabrina". In 1956, he wrote both the screenplay for the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical, "The King and I", and "Somebody Up There Likes Me".
Cary Grant portrayed "Roger Thornhill". He had just been in 1958's, 'Houseboat" co-starring Sophia Loren and Martha Hyer, and followed this picture with "Operation Petticoat", co-starring Tony Curtis.
Eva Marie Saint portrayed "Eve Kendall". This role was bookended by two major roles in two epic motion pictures. Just prior to this film, Eva Marie Saint portrayed Nell Gaither" in 1957's, "Raintree Country", co-starring with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. She would follow this motion picture portraying "Kitty Fremont", co-starring with Paul Newman and Sir Ralph Richardson, in director Otto Preminger's production of American author Leon Uris's, "Exodus".
"Thornhill" survives the accident, but cannot convince either the police, or his mother, "Clara Thornhill", portrayed by Jessie Royce Landis, about what happened, but does discover, after revisiting the estate that "Lester Townsend" is a United Nations diplomat.
"Thornhill" and his mother go to "Kaplan's" empty hotel room at the "Plaza Hotel".
The phone rings and "Roger Thornhill" answers it and "Vandamm's" thugs, who used one of the hotel lobbies phones, now start their pursuit of "Thornhill", to kill one man they still believe is another.
"Thornhill" now heads for the United Nations General Assembly room and meets the real "Lester Townsend".
"Thornhill" boards the "20th Century Limited" that will be going to Chicago and meets an attractive blonde named "Eve Kendall". The police show up and she misdirects them away from "Roger". He next evades the conductors searching for him and sits down at "Eve's" table in the dining car. She admits to tipping the waiter to have him sit at her table and having seen the newspaper articles about him.
"The Professor" explains the fictious "Kaplan" and the need to capture "Vandamm" before he leaves his ranch in South Dakota with incriminating evidence about his spying to another county.
"Roger Thornhill" refuses "The Professor's" request that he continues to be "Kaplan". "Thornhill" is prepared to walk away until "The Professor" reveals that "Eve Kendall" is actually an agent working undercover and is in danger from "Vandamm", unless she can still prove her loyalty to him.
"Roger" now clearly working for the government, after arriving in Rapid City, South Dakota, sets up a meeting with "Vandamm" at the Mount Rushmore memorial cafeteria.
The last James Mason feature I want to mention in this article, was also the last motion picture that was released starring the actor during the 1950's.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH premiered in New York City on December 16, 1959
My article on the films based, so far, on the works of Jules Verne, is simply entitled, "Jules Verne on the Motion Picture Screen", to explore at:
Charles Brackett started writing screenplays in 1925 and his work included Katharine Hepburn's, 1933 version of Louisa May Alcott's, "Little Women", director Cecil B. DeMille's, 1935, "The Crusades", Greta Garbo's, 1939, "Ninotchka", director Billy Wilder's, 1943, "Five Graves to Cairo", director Billy Wilder's, 1945, "The Lost Weekend", director Billy Wilder's, 1950, "Sunset Blvd.", the Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck, "Robert Wagner, Audrey Dalton, Thelma Ritter, Brian Aherne, and Richard Basehart, 1953, "Titantic".
That was absolutely the most beautiful idea, because Clifton Webb had a certain tongue-in-cheek style, suited to playing a professor with crazy notions, which could be paired with Pat Boone as his favorite disciple. Every week Clifton visited Brackett's office, where we described scenes to him and he became very excited at the prospect of playing that kind of part. Maybe two or three weeks before we actually began to shoot, Clifton Webb went to the hospital for a checkup, and they never let him out. He had to undergo major surgery. Unless my memory fails me completely, it was a double hernia, and he was, as you can imagine, a very sensitive man, very touchy about sickness. He called Zanuck himself on his private line, and said he could not play the part because it was such a physical part.
I discovered why, although fourth-billed, Baker had extremely little on-screen time. Apparently there were, according to Walter Reisch, five songs or possibly more, shot with her and Pat Boone and only one is seen. It was kept because it established their relationship, otherwise "20th Century Fox" studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck, thought Boone's songs distracted from and slowed the movie down.
I had written a lot of science fiction for magazines, and Charles Brackett knew about that. They also knew that I had written magazine articles on Jules Verne. I had studied Jules Verne, and always wanted to write his biography, but I never got around to doing it. When they bought the Jules Verne novel from his estate and assigned me, I was delighted. The master's work, though a beautiful basic idea, went in a thousand directions and never achieved a real constructive "roundness". With the exception of the basic idea, there is very little of the novel left in the film. I invented a lot of new characters—the Pat Boone part, the part of the professor's wife played by Arlene Dahl, the [part of the] villain—and the fact that it all played in Scotland.
The year is 1880, the
location is Edinburgh, Scotland, geologist, "Professor
Oliver Lindenbrook" of the "University of Edinburgh, has just been knighted and all of Scotland is excited for him, but especially his students. Which includes "Alec McEwan", a student of little financial means, but of vast intelligence. He has presented the professor with a gift from "Lindenbrook's"
students over his knighthood. However, there was some funds left over from the
collection and "Alec" had noticed an interesting rock in a shop
window and purchased it for the professor.
That night, "Alec" knocks on the door of the "Lindenbrook" home, having been invited to dine by the professor. He has borrowed clothing from one of his follow students, a young Scottish Lord, and apologizes for that fact to the girl he loves, "Professor Lindenbrook's" niece, "Jenny". Other diners will arrive, but before that, "Alec" plays the piano and sings a love song to "Jenny".
The evening is progressing, but her uncle hasn't come home and "Jenny" is worried. She and "Alec" go to "Professor Lindenbrook's" lecture hall and office and find him trying to melt the rock down. He tells "Alec" that the rock is lava and weighs too much, there has to be something in it.
When, by accident, the Icelandic lava found on the slope of an Italian volcano is destroyed, a plumb bob is found.
There is a signature on the plum bob, the name of "Arne Saknussemm", an Icelandic scientist who disappeared almost 100-years-ago. There is also a message, while an upset "Jenny" simmers over her uncle and now "Alec" ignoring her and the dinner, the professor translates the message. It is instructions on when to enter the volcano, "Snæfellsjökull", and "Journey to the Center of the Earth". "Professor Lindenbrook" sends his findings to "Professor Peter Goteborg", portrayed by the uncredited Ivan Triesault, in Stockholm, Sweden, for verification. However, when he hasn't received a reply and inquirers about "Goteborg", "Lindenbrook" learns that he has just disappeared.
Lindenbrook" realizes that the Swede is off on his own for Iceland and
plans on leaving immediately, because it is almost the end of May. The decent must occur
on the last day of May when the sunrise pinpoints the entrance they must take.
"Alec" says good-bye to his now fiancée, "Jenny Lindenbrook", and with her uncle is off to Iceland and what he hopes will be the center of the earth.
In Iceland, "Oliver" attempts to get all the equipment they will need to make the descent, but soon discovered that "Goteborg" has bought all of that was available. "Oliver" goes to confront "Peter Goteborg", however "Goteborg" and his assistant kidnap both "Lindenbrook" and "McEwan", who find themselves in a storage room full of goose feathers and the knocking of what they presume is another prisoner on the wall.
The knocking turns out to be "Gertrude the Duck", but along with her comes "Hans Belke", she his pet, and he frees the two men. The three returns to the same hotel that "Professor Peter Goteborg" is using and enter his unlocked room. In it they find all the equipment the two needs, including "Ruhmkorff Lamps", a form of portable electric lamps named after its inventor, Heinrich Daniel Ruhmkorff, and first used during the 1860's. Below is an illustration from the first edition of "Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The three men also find "Professor Peter Goteborg" lying dead in his room, poisoned by potassium cyanide. They learn from "Hans" that there is a living descendent of "Arne Saknussemm", "Count Saknussemm".
"Clara Goteborg" shows up looking for her husband, is told of his death by "Oliver Lindebrook", who asks to purchase the equipment her husband has for his own expedition to the center of the earth.
"Clara" accuses him of wanting to take over her husband's research. "Oliver" explains that it was his research and discovery and that her husband was the one using the information of another. She will not accept this, until she reads her husband's diary in which he admits he stole "Oliver Lindenbrook's" discovery and is afraid that "Lindenbrook" has arrived and must be stopped.
"Clara" is now willing to give the equipment to "Oliver Linderbrook",
but on the condition that she goes with him, "Alec", and now
"Hans". After attempting to tell "Clara Goteborg" of the
dangers and lack of "comports" for a woman, "Oliver"
All four explorers now are together on the top of "Snæfellsjökull", and wait for the sun to rise on the last morning of May 1880.
What the four do not see is below them on a ledge of the volcano, "Count Saknussemm", and his servant await the same morning sun to learn the entrance his ancestor used.
The sun starts to come up and a sunray lands on what should be the entrance, but it is too small for a person to have ever entered. "Gertrude the Duck", which "Hans" has brought with him, gets away, but also finds the real entrance and the four explorers walk through it.
A few minutes later, the "Count" and his servant follow!
A slight earthquake takes place and a bolder narrowly misses the four explorers, but it uncovers a marking made by "Arne Saknussemm", giving them a pathway to the center of the earth.
The heat is getting to
"Clara" and "Oliver" asks if she's wearing
"Stays", when she responds yes, he suggests she go behind some rocks
to remove them. Below are the typical 1880's variation used by women in the United Kingdom.
"Count Saknussemm" changes some of
the markings, his elderly servant dies from overexertion, and "Alec"
goes the wrong way. Finding a piece of his clothing near a deep ravine, the
other three members of "The Lindenbrook Expedition", believe
he fell in and is dead. "Oliver" instructs "Clara", who is
keeping the log to change the name to the "McEwan
After wondering alone for some time, "Alec" comes upon the count. The count demands that he takes his servant’s place.
"Alec" refuses the count's demand and is shot in the arm, falling on the salt flats that make-up the area they're in. The shot is heard by the others, and it leads them to find "Alec" and the count, who threatens all of them at gun point, but "Oliver" distracts him and throws salt into the count's eyes.
A mock trial is held and "Count Saknussemm" is found guilty and sentenced to death. However, "Hans" will not harm a "Saknussemm", and not one of the other three can pull the trigger and, grudgingly, the count becomes part of their expedition. The "Ruhmkorff Lamps" are failing from the salt deposits, but the count finds some luminescent algae, has everyone turn off their lamps, and the area is lite-up from the algae.
It is now 256-days since the expedition started and "Clara Goteberg" and "Oliver Linderbrook" are still bickering, but also it seems the widow and widower are falling in love.
"Alec" discovers a forest of giant mushrooms and "Clara" prepares mushrooms for dinner.
The explorers discover a large under-the-earth-ocean and while the others relax, "Count Saknussemm" orders "Hans" to cut down some of the giant mushrooms and build a raft.
The raft is built, but "Oliver" and "Alec", while walking on the beach, come across a family of dimetrodons. The dimetrodons pose a threat and the group must get beyond them and out on the ocean. "Oliver" shoots one of the dinosaurs and causes them to go into a frenzy attacking the bleeding dimetrodon.
They start crossing the under-earth-ocean and after several hours, they find themselves in a giant whirlpool. Then everything made of metal, including their gold tooth fillings, are pulled off the raft into the maelstrom.
"Oliver" determines that the magnetic forces of both the north and south poles have met, and the explorers are at the center of the earth.
Exhausted, the group rests on a beach across the ocean from their original starting point.
While everyone sleeps from exhaustion, a very hungry "Count Saknussumm" makes a meal out of "Gertrude". Discovering this "Hans" cannot be restrained by the others and he lunges at the count.
Backing up from the other man, "Count Saknussumm" loosens some rocks that fall and bury his body. Behind the now collapsed rock face, the others stare at the lost city of Atlantis.
As "Oliver" studies the remains, he notices the direction "Saknussemm's" right hand and finger are pointing toward. It appears to be a volcanic vent and "Clara" goes over to it and there is a rush of fresh air moving within the vent.
The volcanic vent is obviously a way to the surface and "Oliver" looks at a large rock blocking anyway up, but there seems to be 100-years-old-gunpowder in a sack attached to "Saknussemm's" skeleton. Believing it's worth a chance, he instructs the others to get into an altar bowl, and joins them as he lights the makeshift fuse he made to set off the gunpowder and blow-up the rock.
Just then a giant lizard appears and attacks, but the gunpowder explodes and a lava flow appears in what was for decades an inactive volcano.
The lizard is covered in lava, and the altar bowl moves on the flow into the volcanic vent and rushes up through the vent and out of the cone of the erupting volcano.
The explorers land in the Mediterranean Sea and are picked-up by fishermen, except for "Alec" who lands without his clothes in a tree at an Italian nunnery and falls out of it.
Back in Scotland the explorers are national heroes. "Hans" tells "Professor Lindebrook" that if ever goes back to the center of the earth, he will go with him.
In the end, "Clara Goteborg" will have to change her last name, as well as "Jenny Lindenbrook".
On March 16,1960, James Mason started the 1960's with the United Kingdom and United States comedy "A Touch of Larceny", co-starring with George Sanders and Vera Miles.
On July 17, 1984, 75-years-old, James Mason, passed away in Lusanne, Switzerland.