Hong Kong Hilton
The thought occurred to me to write a piece about James Mason who I knew fairly well. This was followed by another thought — who the hell has ever heard of James Mason? Yes, my generation, but there are not that many of us left and those who are typically do not trawl the Internet.
My second thought was that it mattered not. Whether there are numbers of people who want to know about James Mason or whether there was significant number who had never heard of him. So I thought I would do it and it would remain on the Internet and perhaps some people — film buffs — would be interested.
I first met James Mason in 1969 in Australia when he was filming The Age of Consent directed by Michael Powell. This was a romantic comedy-drama starring Mason (who was also co-producer with Michael Powell). It also starred Helen Mirren. The setting of the movie was the Great Barrier Reef and the underwater scenes were the responsibility of Ron and Valerie Taylor who were, at the time, doing stuff for me in a magazine called Fathom which was about skin diving.
I was introduced by Valerie Taylor to James Mason – all I really noted that he seemed to be in a bad temper and suffered more from psoriasis than any other person I ever met. We ran a whole issue of Fathom on the movie. The screenplay was adapted from the 1935 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Norman Lindsay, who died the year this film was released.
I met Mason again in Hong Kong where he was making a movie called The Ying and Yang of Mr Go. One account reads : Mason then went to Hong Kong for an honest-to-God disaster that could not have looked good even on paper.
Rotten Tomatoes says The Yin and Yang of Mr. Go was (1969-70) was written and directed by actor Burgess Meredith. . . .Mason is an Asian arms dealer. . . This international mismash ran out of money, though it may have been later patched together and released in South East Asia under the title, The Third Eye. It can now be found on video under its original name, with obviously fake new scenes featuring Broderick Crawford.
It was not Mason’s last hurrah. In 1982 he played a corrupt lawyer, Ed Concannon and was nominated for an Oscar though he did not win it. He died in 1984.
We first had lunch at the Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong. He was bearded and he still had psoriasis. I have never seen this mentioned elsewhere.
His wife, Clarissa Kaye, who was Australian and an actor who had had a very minor career on the stage and in movies, was also at the table.
They normally lived in Corseaux-sur-Vevey in Switzerland where Mason was a tax exile. That is he was ducking paying UK income tax by living abroad in a low tax area. No shame in that. Lots of people did it, still do it.
But it was then the conversation took a bizarre turn.
It concerned a knighthood for James Mason and would I write something about it or speak to someone about it or do something. What, was not very clearly stated. I think the two of them were just drumming up support for this strange concept.
I pointed out, politely and deferentially, that as he was a tax exile – sounds better than tax dodger – it was very unlikely he would get past the first post. Clarissa jumped in. She said, ‘It was like that but now that dear Noel has got his the door is open.’ It took me a little while to realise she was talking about Noel Coward who maintained homes in Jamaica and Switzerland to avoid tax. Despite this he was knighted.
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