James Neville Mason (1909-1984, British)

James Mason and catThe English actor, James Neville Mason (1909-1984) best known for his starring roles in The Desert Fox, Lolita, North by Northwest and A Star is Born, to name only a few, was an avid cat fancier. Born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire into a wealthy textile family, he attended Cambridge. After graduation, he made his first stage debut in The Rascal, 1933. During WWII he registered as a conscientious objector, bringing shame to his family and his estrangement from them.

Both Mason and his first wife, Pamela loved cats and authored a book The Cats in Our Lives in 1949 in which they recount interesting anecdotes about their reportedly nine cats with names such as Toy Boy, Tribute and Whitney Thompson.  The multi-talented Mason illustrated most of the book as well.



James Mason Cat Illustration 1




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The book was  such a success that they ultimately published another Favorite Cat Stories of Pamela and James Mason in 1956.



The dust jacket cover for Favorite Cat Stories of Pamela and James Mason, which was published in 1956


In a July 3, 1949 article in The News and Courier, Howard C. Heyn reported from the Mason’s home:

      However acid he may have been in pictures or in print, Mason certainly is retiring enough in home surroundings. He’s polite, but apprehensive, with strangers.
      The Masons’ fabulous cats likewise were restrained.  They wandered in and out of the drawing room but they didn’t climb walls.  Mason said they had nine cats, including one “guest.”
      He and Pamela are enthusiastic about their new book, “The Cats in Our Lives.”  When inquiries about their cats become too numerous, she suggests, giggling, that you read the book.  Mason illustrated it, with line drawings.
      Pam did impart the information that the eight Mason cats have their own room at the rear of the house, reached by an outside stairway.
      When the Masons moved in, they stored the pasteboard cartons there temporarily as they unpacked them.  One day they missed the cats, and started searching the house.  They found all eight in the room with the private stairway.
      Each cat was sitting, possessively and with considerable dignity, in its own carton.  So the Masons merely furnished the room with eight fresh boxes, and considered the family installed.


James Mason and his wife with cat


Earl Wilson wrote in the Miami Daily News on January 16, 1950:

      Nobody had written anything about James Mason’s cats for 5 minutes, so it was up to me.
      “Kitty, kitty, kitty,” I purred as soon as I stepped inside Mason’s enormous home, for there on the steps sat a pretty cat with pretty eyes.
      The pretty kitty didn’t answer, nor get up and rub my legs, because the pretty kitty was a dummy — porcelain, perhaps.  But very real-looking.
      Mason came in — unaccompanied by any cats (by the way, I’ve always found him a nice, friendly, co-operative chap) — and I asked him how he liked Hollywood by now.
      I kept wondering, where were the cats?  I only saw one running around the room here in this big rambling home that Buster Keaton built on a three and one-half acre plot right in Beverly Hills for Natalie Talmadge, oh, about 20 years ago.
      Only one cat.  I thought there’d be 15 or 20.  It kept weighing on what I called my mind.
      Mason was having some tea.  Where were the cats?  I thought this was a cattery, practically, but only one cat.  Mason finally said a few silly stories about his cats have been invented by studio publicists.
      “We are just people who keeps cats, that’s all,” Mason said.
      “We have 9 cats at the moment,” said attractive Mrs. Mason, who was playing with their daughter, Portland, who was named for Mrs. Fred Allen.
      “And if you’re fond of cats,” Mason said, “You’re always getting more.”
      “Mrs. George Sanders goes flitting off to Europe and asks if we’ll take care of her cat.  She comes back and sort of forgets her cat, so her cat becomes one of our cats.”


James Mason and his wife, actress and author Pamela Kellino, cat books




James Mason and Persian Cats




James Mason and Siamese cats




James Mason and wife signing books with cat




James and Pamela and Cats




Pamela and James Mason with cat




James Mason with Siamese cat on his shoulder




James Mason holding cat



Want to know more about the cat in history, art and literature? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 


Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats


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