Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gracie- James Mason- the Cats- a Chair and a Whip

James Mason on the Burns and Allen Radio Show

Seventh Veil Ann Todd, James Mason
Photograph Master Print High Quality
Actor James Mason and his wife Pamela were guest stars on one of my favorite Burns & Allen radio episodes. George Burns and Gracie Allen recorded the show on *February 17, 1949. 

This episode is sometimes called Impressing The Neighbors or George Collects Cats.  

While James Mason had appeared in many films up until this airing, they specifically talked about a film he did in 1945, The Seventh Veil.

The sponsor at that time was Maxwell House Coffee.  Announcer Bill Goodwin kept the show going, including providing introductions, commercial breaks (which were often incorporated into the show itself) and he served as an actor himself.

It's fun to hear those who are usually thought of as dramatic actors. On screen they have suave or maybe scary personas, they come onto radio shows make us laugh.

The other thing you notice on radio is what you don't hear on television shows and in films. On radio shows you hear actors stumble over their lines, you'll hear them say "uh," or even cough. You rarely hear things like that in the movies unless it's in the script.

The Seventh Veil, Starring James Mason, Herbert Lom, Ann Todd and Hugh McDermott 1945: If you're in the US, your best bet is to stream the film. *Please check. Depending on stock available, the DVD may not play on most US machines.

In his 1981 autobiography, Before I Forget, was published. Mason said people assumed he really was mean and asked if he beat his wife. In response, he wrote a satirical, facetious article titled "Yes, I Beat My Wife" with his own illustrations, which was published in a British humor and arts magazine, Liliput.

The fact that people assumed this about him in real life was probably some motivation for the bits in this show. The couple had also appeared on the very popular Fred Allen Show. They even had their own radio show for a while.

Mason was spy, Phillip Vandamm in the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest. He was Humbert in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita and many other memorable roles. Later in his career he did 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the spooky Salem's Lot.

I've always liked James Mason as an actor and that's only one reason that this is a favorite Burns and Allen episode. I'm a British comedy fan and a cat person. Both the silly humor about Americans vs Brits and the cat theme makes it funny and charming.

Another interesting bit about this episode from the 1940s is hearing Gracie Allen's contention that women like to be dominated. It's said in humor but she could be right off of a present-day talk show.

Fanny by Gaslight, They were Sisters and The Wicked Lady, from around the same time period also have Mason in what was called his wicked beast persona. In They were Sisters, his wife Pamela played his daughter, even though she was only seven years his junior.

Upturned Glass James Mason '47 Portrait Lobby Card
James Mason appeared with his wives in films
Here he is with Pamela Kellino Mason
Did the show or the writers get an advance copy of 50 Shades of Grey? They're basically chatting about submissive women, Mason's being attractive because he beats women in his films, etc. It's really psychologically relevant today.

How often do you see the discussion something like, do dominant women want to be submissive at home? Is being abusive is synonymous with being 'rough and rugged.'  Regardless, Mason was there to both mock and put an end to that image of himself. Of course it's all satirical.

The premise of the show is that the Masons have moved from England to Beverly Hills. Gracie is thrilled, she's attracted to James Mason and wants to invite him over. Mason was one of the popular and good looking male movie stars of the day. Here are some fun parts of the show. I've had to condense and paraphrase what they said here and there.  

George (GB): Remember Mason in The Seventh Veil - Wasn't he great?
Gracie (GA): Wonderful. And just think, now he's our neighbor. We're almost close enough to hear his wife scream
GB: Why should his wife scream?
GA: It must hurt when he beats her with that cane
GB: Gracie, he only did that in the movie. In real life James Mason is probably very kind and gentle.
GA: Don't you dare say such mean things about him! Kind and gentle? That's a fine way to talk about that magnificent monster!
GB: I'm sorry I insulted him

Gracie: You know, some girls dream of getting a husband who'll cover them in diamond and minks.
I'd rather have James Mason and be covered with band-aids.

GB: You would?!
GA: Sure. Women love to be dominated. But in all the years we've been married you've never struck me once. You're very selfish, George. Well please try to act rough and rugged when the Masons get here. I'm going to invite them over for a visit...

GA: With those piercing black eyes and that cane all he has to do is give you a look and a clap
GB: Gracie for the last time, Mason is not that type of man. He's very soft spoken and gentle. As a matter of fact his hobby is raising cats.
GA: You mean pussy cats? ... Their hobby is raising cats?
GB: Sure they've written a book, The Cats in Our Lives.

George tells her they have nothing in common, she can't just go to their house and invite strangers over. She says, "I've been using his jars for years."
George explains that it's a different Mason who makes Mason jars......

She decides to pretend that they have something in common so they can meet.

Photograph Gracie Allen
8x10 b/w photo "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show"

Gracie goes over to the Masons' house and introduces herself as their neighbor. She tells them that George has a rare collection of cats. They have a cute exchange about cats. Mr. (JM) and Mrs. (PM) Mason go back and forth asking Gracie questions about George's cats.

 GA: My husband has a rare and valuable collection and one of them disappeared
JM: Really? It so happens that Mrs Mason has quite a collection of cats
GA: You don't say
JM: Yes in our family my wife is the fancier
GA: Oh I don't know, you're pretty cute yourself.
JM: I meant she's an expert on cats
GA: Oh you mean like my husband

PM: Yes. How many do you have Mrs. Burns?
GA: Well only one. That's all the husbands they allow in this country
JM: I believe she was asking about cats, not husbands.

James Mason with Siamese Kitten 1945? Clipping Magazine Photo orig 1pg 8x10
The Masons were said to have Siamese named Flower-Face, Sadie and Tribute

GA: We had 15 when I left the house. Of course there may be more when I get back. Our mother cat is very popular
JM: Is she expecting a litter?
GA: No, her boyfriends can't write. They just call to her from the back fence.
JM: Mrs. Burns, when a cat has a litter she gives birth to kittens
GA: I don't doubt it! -- A shock like that. ...
PM: Do you have any Persians or Siamese?
GA: No. We don't keep people just cats.

JM: Mrs. Burns what is your method of raising cats?
GA: Well, you put both hands under their tummy and lift

PM: What do you feed your cats?
GA:: Cheese
PM: Cheese?
GA: Well yes. They're too aristocratic to go looking for mice. this way the mice smell their breath and they come looking for them.

After telling them that all these cats exist the Masons are anxious to visit and see them. Gracie talks George into walking with her through an alley after she's slipped a bit of aromatic fish into his pocket. A parade of alley cats follow them home.

The Masons arrive and Gracie introduces them. Cats are climbing all over George, who's still unaware that he's got fish in his pocket.

PM: We're so anxious to meet your husband

Gracie: Oh you'll love him Mrs. Mason.
He's the same type as your husband.
He beats me all the time

James Mason: What??

Pamela Mason: Your husband beats you?!
Gracie Allen: Oh he's so British! Here's my husband; he's frolicking with his cats.

JM: By Jove, Mr. Burns I've never seen cats so devoted to a man. They seem to be a curious mixture of breeds. Pam, what would you say that grey one is?
PM: Well it could be part Maltese but it's difficult to tell it's shedding its fur.
GA: Yes, it's part Maltese and part Striptease.

JM: Mr. Burns, your wife told us about your cat collection but we never expected anything like this. You must attend these creatures with a chair and a whip.

George and Gracie try to give all the cats to the Masons as a Welcome to America gift. The only want one, a fancy Persian cat from the neighborhood who wandered in with the others. George gives the cat to them. They name the cat George after their favorite performer, George Jessell.

The Decks Ran Red 1958
Original Lobby Card
Dorothy Dandridge, James Mason

Dorothy Dandridge was the first African American actress  to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Carmen Jones (1954).

Gracie thinks that Mrs. Mason was making eyes at George, that she's fallen in love with her husband. This may be partly because she's attracted to Mrs. Mason's husband. :)

Their neighbor wants his fancy Persian cat back and George sends Bill Goodwin to the Masons to retrieve it. 

As luck and sponsors would have it, James Mason suggests to Goodwin that they have a cup of tea. Goodwin freaks out saying he'll only drink Maxwell House Coffee. He storms out of the house without the cat. 

James Mason to his wife: "Strange that Burns should have one thoroughbred among all those mongrels. I'll wager it was Mrs. Burns who collected all those battered old veterans. With Mr. Burns at home she must have wanted a matched set."

Mrs. Mason has become particularly fond of George the Persian cat. He asks how she's getting along with him.

PM: Wonderfully, darling. I bathed him and brushed him and he's simply beautiful. He already responds to his new name. 

She goes outside "to have a romp in the garden with George." 

Judy Garland A Star Is Born 1954
High Quality Photo

Gracie goes to their house because she believes Mrs. Mason has enticed her husband George over. She wants her husband back.

GA: I've come to get George
PM: Oh please don't I've grown so fond of him. Must you take him away?
GA: Yes I must

JM: [He begins to beg.] Mrs. Burns, I appeal to you...
GA: You certainly do, but I've come to get George
JM: Please let my wife keep him.
GA: You wouldn't object?
JM: Not at all. If it makes Pam happy I'll even let him sleep at the foot of our bed.
GA: Gee you English are broad minded.

James Mason offers to pay Gracie for George. When Pamela tells Gracie that she gave George a bath, Gracie is shocked and distraught.

GA: You gave him a bath???
PM: Yes
GA: Well, if he let you do that I've lost him. He's yours Mrs mason.
PM: Oh thank you
GA: But be kind to him.... remember he's getting old
PM: You'd never know it he acts very frisky around me
GA: Well it's your first day together. He was frisky on our first day, too. ...

The show is funny and charming. If you get a chance, I suggest that you give it a listen.

Before I Forget, James Mason autobiography

I keep checking to see what volumes of The cats in our lives are available

Favorite Cat Stories of Pamela & James Mason Their cat books are hard to find.

Rudolph Valentino's Impact Lover Movie Idol, Dangerous Man, Valentino's Impact: Would he be such big a star today?

The Burns & Allen radio show Collection on MP3. They had an amazing assortment of film and music stars of the era. You'll find the George Collects Cats episode if you get the set.

Siamese Cats in Films, TV and Books

We found more documentaries, foreign films, more British television shows and many more old color and black and white films to rent and stream on Amazon.  

The first Daily Mail Film Awards were awarded in 1946 to the most outstanding British actor and actress during the war years. These awards preceded the BAFTA Awards as Britain's national film awards.  The awards ran from 1946 to 1951

James Mason won the first one for Most popular and outstanding British actor in 1946, their inaugural year. Mason also won Best Film Actor of the year 1947 but because he was in New York at the time of the ceremony, Mr J Arthur Rank Collected the award on his behalf. On the video, we also hear them sing for the Grand Old Order of Water Rats.

Also in 1946 Most Outstanding British actress award went to Margaret Lockwood. Ms. Lockwood would win Best Actress in 1946, 1947 and 1948 consecutively. Best Film was Way to the StarsThe award was collected by Anatole de Grunwald (Producer) and Anthony Asquith (Director). 

The trophy is described as being "a silver nymph holding aloft a silver star in its right hand, standing approximately 60 cm high." 

I found more films from James Mason's era on Amazon than other streaming media outlets. Films like The Seventh Veil are only available on VHS and discs that are readable on machines in countries other than the US. 

What is James Mason's era? Mason made movies from 1933 to 1985! He also wrote and co-wrote books and illustrated them. He did other things too but we're not going to list them here just yet. ;)

James Mason was nominated for three Academy Awards and three Golden Globes (winning the Golden Globe in 1955 for ripping our hearts out in A Star is Born). Judy Garland was his costar. 

James Mason has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6821 Hollywood Blvd. His star is between those of Matt Damon & Forest Whitaker. It's near The Bee Gees, Sammy Kaye, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Duvall, Muhammad Ali and Martin Landau.

Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies We chose Amazon Prime because we prefer their wide selection of movies and documentaries to other streaming video sites, and the yearly price is about the same. But you get added benefits to joining Amazon Prime.  Having several of the videos free to watch with Amazon Prime is great.

There are always movies you want to pay to rent or own. There seems to still be some special films we want to own on DVD.

** Fun Fact: James and Pamela Mason's son, Morgan married Belinda Carlisle, who was the lead vocalist of the Go-Go's. The couple has a son who is an actor, James Duke Mason, born in 1992.

Related Pages of Interest:

Clark Gable visits Burns and Allen

Gracie or Bette Davis? Who taught Paul Henreid to light 2 Cigarettes at once?

Cary Grant, Claudette Colbert and Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth on Old Time Radio

*There's a chance the exact date of the radio show is a little off.

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