Portland Mason

Child actress and daughter of James Mason

As the first child of the actors James Mason and his wife Pamela, Portland Mason made headlines almost from birth. At her christening, her father became violent when a press photographer elbowed his way to the font and took flash pictures. Portland also heard flashbulbs pop in 1964 during her parents' long and acrimonious divorce hearings. After James Mason's death in 1984, his daughter was back in court, fighting an even more protracted battle over his estate.



Portland Mason, actress and writer: born Los Angeles 26 November 1948; married Rob Schuyler; died Los Angeles 10 May 2004.



As the first child of the actors James Mason and his wife Pamela, Portland Mason made headlines almost from birth. At her christening, her father became violent when a press photographer elbowed his way to the font and took flash pictures. Portland also heard flashbulbs pop in 1964 during her parents' long and acrimonious divorce hearings. After James Mason's death in 1984, his daughter was back in court, fighting an even more protracted battle over his estate.

James Mason's greatest friend and champion in his earliest days in America was the saturnine comedian Fred Allen. Portland Mason was named after Allen's wife and squeaky-voiced comic foil Portland Hoffa, who was, in turn, named after her birthplace in Oregon. Hoffa's namesake grew up in a Beverly Hills mansion. Replete with banquet hall, projection room, billiard room, date palms, trout-stocked brook and one of Tinseltown's most grandiose swimming pools, it was built in the late 1920s by Buster Keaton.

For his biography James Mason - Odd Man Out (1989), Sheridan Morley interviewed Jane Greer, who had acted with Mason in the film The Prisoner of Zenda (1952). Greer said:

He was always talking about Portland, who was then about three, and about how he and Pamela had decided the only way to stop her smoking cigarettes in later life was

 

to let her have one very young and see how it made her cough. So I asked how that had worked out and James said, "Well, she's now up to two packs a day."

At seven, Portland wore high heels and make-up. While her father observed strict film actor hours, retiring each right at 10, she was allowed to stay up as late as she liked and to go on dates. Although it was widely reported that she had her own mink coat at the age of nine, her father always denied this. He adored his "Porty"; before he accepted a quarter of a million dollars to play Captain Nemo in Disney's 20,000 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1954), he demanded a clause in the contract, allowing his daughter to borrow a print of any Disney film.

At seven she starred in The Child (1954), a short film directed by her father and written by her mother. The trade journal The Hollywood Reporter commented, "Portland Mason as a child? Talk about miscasting!" In 1959 her father again directed her, in the melodrama Maria Martin or the Murder in the Red Barn at the Laguna Playhouse. By this time, she had already made many television appearances, played Gregory Peck's daughter in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), and acted in two films which starred her father: Bigger Than Life (1956) and Cry Terror! (1958).

In 1960 Stanley Kubrick asked James Mason to play Humbert Humbert in his film version of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita. Although he turned down the part in favour of a Broadway musical, Mason recommended his daughter for the title role. When the musical project fell through, he accepted the Humbert part, with Sue Lyon playing the eponymous nymphet.

Portland Mason's much- publicised image made her ideal casting as one of Ronald Searle's teenage hellions in the film The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery (1966). After acting in the Dirk Bogarde thriller Sebastian (1968), she turned to writing.

In 1971 James Mason married the actress Clarissa Kaye. He died 13 years later, leaving everything to Kaye, but specifying that his $15m estate would pass to Portland and her younger brother Morgan after Kaye's death. Although their stepmother died in 1994, it wasn't until 1999, after more than a decade of legal wrangling, that Portland and Morgan were finally awarded Mason's ashes.

According to her husband, Rob Schuyler, Portland Mason had been writing a book about her father.

Dick Vosburgh

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions