Monologues and Silences: James Mason in the 1970s

Sarah Thomas

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In 1979 at the age of sixty-five (when publicising Murder by Decree), James Mason remarked, “I’m not very nostalgic for the old days”. This resistance to engaging with his popular star image of the dark, brooding anti-hero of British cinema (and Hollywood’s adaptation of this) can be observed in Mason’s career during that decade and he offers a useful counterpoint to analyses that primarily discuss aging stars through excess, whereby identities are visualised through camp, parody and irony (c.f James Morrison 2010).

Instead, what Mason’s 1970s films articulate is a dichotomy between the visible and the invisible which this paper frames in terms of ‘monologues’ and ‘silences’. Both represent a major male star’s late-career still in flux, but deviate from traditional perceptions of how this is understood, particularly as a spectacle of ‘failure’ or ‘excess’.

Mason’s ‘monologues’ are the visible negotiations of multiple cultural identities – but significantly, not those generated by his film stardom. Appearing as himself (as narrator) in the documentaries The London Nobody Knows (1967) and Home James (1972) Mason refers to his pre-cinematic identities; his Yorkshire upbringing and his background in architectural study.

Mason’s ‘silences’ represent a convergence of historical identity. I examine this through his work in 1970s exploitation cinema (Cold Sweat (1970) and The Flower in His Mouth (1975)), firstly in the removal of this body of work from subsequent critical histories of the actor, and secondly through the rejection of star image in these films in favour of an ‘invisible’ and ‘silent’ performance style resonant with Mason’s history as a screen actor.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2016
EventSurface and Substance:: Reflections on the Male Star - St Andrews University, St Andrews, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Duration: 28 Jun 201429 Jun 2014


ConferenceSurface and Substance:
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
CitySt Andrews
Period28 Jun 201429 Jun 2014


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