Wikipedia Encyclopedia

Pamela Mason

Pamela Mason

Pamela Mason (10 March 1916 – 29 June 1996), also known as Pamela Kellino, was an English actress, author, and screenwriter, known for being the creative partner and first wife of English actor James Mason.

Pamela Mason
Mason in 1952
Pamela Helen Ostrer

(1916-03-10)10 March 1916
Rochford, Essex, England
Died29 June 1996(1996-06-29) (aged 80)
Other namesPamela Kellino
OccupationActress, screenwriter
Years active1934–1985
(m. 1932; div. 1940)

(m. 1941; div. 1964)
ChildrenPortland Mason
Morgan Mason
FamilyBelinda Carlisle (daughter-in-law)

Early life and personal life

Born Pamela Helen Ostrer in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Mason[1] was the daughter of Helen (née Spear-Morgan) and Isidore Ostrer,[2] a wealthy Jewish industrialist and banker who became president of the Gaumont British Picture Corporation in the early 1920s. Pamela left school at age 9, and married cinematographer Roy Kellino at age 18 in 1934,[3] thereafter taking the name "Pamela Kellino".[1]

In 1935, Pamela Kellino met actor James Mason on the set of his second film, Troubled Waters, on which her husband was working as a cinematographer. James Mason and Pamela Kellino were quickly attracted to each other. Mason became close friends with both Kellinos, moved in with them, and collaborated with them on several stage and screen projects,[4] culminating in the 1938 film I Met a Murderer, in which he and Pamela Kellino played lovers on the run. Shortly afterwards, Roy Kellino divorced Pamela, naming James Mason as co-respondent, and she married Mason in 1940. Roy Kellino remained on friendly terms with the Masons and directed their later films Lady Possessed and Charade. After her divorce and remarriage, Pamela Mason continued to use the name "Pamela Kellino" for some years in her acting and writing work.

The Mason family in 1957 in the television programme Panic!. From left, son Morgan, Pamela Mason, daughter Portland and husband James Mason.

The Masons moved from London to Hollywood in the late 1940s, occupying the mansion previously owned by Buster Keaton, where Pamela became a popular hostess of parties. They had two children: daughter Portland (1948–2004), and son Morgan (who later became an advisor to President Ronald Reagan and married Belinda Carlisle). Portland was named for the Masons' friend Portland Hoffa, the wife of the American radio comedian Fred Allen.[5][6]

Pamela Mason filed suit for divorce from James in 1962, claiming that he had committed adultery.[7] According to their son Morgan and other sources, Pamela herself had had numerous affairs, but due to her attorney Marvin Mitchelson's skill, she won a monetary settlement of at least $1 million ($8.7 million today) when the marriage was finally dissolved in 1964; it was reported as "America's first million-dollar divorce".[1][6] As a result of this success, Mitchelson became a sought-after celebrity divorce attorney.[8] Pamela Mason continued to live in the Keaton mansion in Beverly Hills until her death,[9] sharing it “with a multitude of free-range cats.”[10] She remained someone who was listened to and outspoken “with unrepentant, undeviating, withering aim.”[11]


Mason (as Pamela Kellino) made her film debut in 1934 in the Gaumont British big-budget film Jew Süss. She remained under contract to Gaumont British (her father's film company) for several years, despite acting in films only sporadically while also working as a screenwriter, producer, and author.[4]

From the late 1930s through the 1950s, Pamela Mason (often credited as Pamela Kellino, including after her marriage to James Mason), wrote, produced and/or appeared in several films in collaboration with James Mason and/or Roy Kellino. Most notably, she co-starred with James Mason in the films The Upturned Glass and Charade (directed by Roy Kellino), both of which she also co-wrote. The Masons co-produced the films I Met a Murderer and Lady Possessed, both of which were directed by Roy Kellino and lost money. Pamela Mason also had small roles in a number of other films starring James Mason.

Later films in which she appeared without James Mason included The Child (1954) (a short film directed by James Mason, in which their daughter Portland also appeared), Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), Five Minutes to Live (1961) and The Sandpiper (1965).


In the mid-1950s, the Masons appeared together on a short-lived variety show, The James Mason Show.[1][9] Pamela Mason was a contestant on many episodes of the TV quiz show You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx. She changed her name, dialect, and style look every time she appeared on that show, except that her allure always captivated Groucho.[12] In the 1960s, she hosted two talk shows: The Pamela Mason Show, from 1965 to 1966, and The Weaker (?) Sex, which featured female guests, from 1968 to 1969.[9]

From the late 1950s through the 1970s, she made occasional appearances as a guest star on various TV series, including Playhouse 90, Love, American Style, and Wonder Woman. Her last acting appearance was in a made-for-television biographical film of Errol Flynn in 1985.[1]

Mason was a regular guest on The Merv Griffin Show in the 1960s and 1970s.


Before her marriage to James Mason and subsequent move to Hollywood, Pamela Mason (as Pamela Kellino) appeared in a number of London stage productions, including several that she co-financed, co-wrote or appeared in with James Mason.[4] In 1947, she made her American stage debut in the title role of the Broadway show Bathsheba, in which James Mason co-starred as "David"; it closed after only 29 performances.


In addition to her screenwriting work, Mason authored a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, some of which were published under the name "Pamela Kellino". Her novel Del Palma (1948), dismissed by Kirkus Reviews as "trash", became the basis for the film Lady Possessed, which the Masons co-produced.

Other titles by Mason include the novel Ignoramus, Ignoramus (1950) (illustrated by James Mason);[5] The Cats in Our Lives (1949), about the cats and other animals owned by the Masons (co-written and illustrated by James Mason); Marriage Is the First Step Toward Divorce (1968); and The Female Pleasure Hunt (1972).[1]


Mason was the controlling stockholder of Illingworth, Morris, a textile firm previously controlled by her father and uncle. She also ran a mail-order vitamin company and managed property in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Los Angeles.[13]


On 29 June 1996, Mason died of heart failure at her home in Beverly Hills, California. She was survived by her daughter and her son.[1] She is buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.


Year Film Role Notes
1934 Jew Suss Naomi Oppenheimer Credited as Pamela Kellino
1939 Prince of Peace Mary Credited as Pamela Kellino
I Met a Murderer Jo Trent Writer, credited as Pamela Kellino
1945 They Were Sisters Margaret Lee Credited as Pamela Kellino
1947 The Upturned Glass Kate Howard Writer, credited as Pamela Kellino
1949 Caught Mrs Fuller Uncredited
1951 Pandora and the Flying Dutchman Jenny Credited as Pamela Kellino
1952 Lady Possessed Sybil Writer, story
1953 Charade The Artist/Pamela/Baroness Tanslan/Lilly Writer, credited as Pamela Kellino
1954 The Child Janet
1960 College Confidential Edna Blake
Sex Kittens Go to College Dr. Myrtle Carter
1961 Five Minutes to Live Ellen Harcourt Alternative titles: Door-to-Door Maniac
Last Blood
1965 The Sandpiper Ellie Uncredited
1966 The Navy vs. the Night Monsters Marie Alternative titles: Monsters of the Night
The Night Crawlers
1968 Wild in the Streets Pamela Mason Uncredited
1970 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) Pamela Mason
Year Title Role Notes
1953 Omnibus Josephine 1 episode
1954 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Josephine 1 episode
1956 The James Mason Show Herself Multiple episodes
1957 Panic! 1 episode
General Electric Theater Iris Sebastian 1 episode
1957–1958 Playhouse 90 Various roles 3 episodes
1958 Jane Wyman Presents
Writer, 1 episode
1970 Love, American Style 2 episodes
1973 The New Dick Van Dyke Show 1 episode
1977 Wonder Woman Carla Burgess 1 episode
1985 My Wicked, Wicked Ways... The Legend of Errol Flynn Phoebe Straight Television movie, (Last appearance)

Radio appearances

1952SuspenseOdd Man Out[14]


  1. Smith, Dinitia (2 July 1996). "Pamela Mason, 80, An Author, Actress And Talk-Show Host". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  2. "Isidore Ostrer". The Jewish Lives Project. Jewish Museum London. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  3. "FreeBMD Search". FreeBMD (search engine for births, marriages, and deaths in England & Wales). Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  4. Sweeney, Kevin (1999). James Mason: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0313284960.
  5. Sweeney, at p. 19.
  6. Edge, Simon (24 April 2009). "James Mason: The Sad Cad". Daily Express. United Kingdom. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  7. "Actress Charges Habitual Cruelty". Monroe Morning World. 24 November 1962. p. 8. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  8. Pleck, Elizabeth H. (2012). Not Just Roommates: Cohabitation After the Sexual Revolution. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-0226671031.
  9. Fleming, E.J. (2015). Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites: Seventeen Driving Tours With Directions and the Full Story (2nd ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. p. 138. ISBN 978-0786496440.
  10. "9780060152352: No Bells on Sunday: The Rachel Roberts Journals - AbeBooks - Rachel Roberts: 0060152354". Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  11. "9780060152352: No Bells on Sunday: The Rachel Roberts Journals - AbeBooks - Rachel Roberts: 0060152354". Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  12. You Bet Your Life #59-22 Pamela Mason, wife of James Mason ('Table', Feb 18, 1960) on YouTube
  13. Jones, Jerene (22 October 1979). "Her Claws as Sharp as Ever, Pamela Mason Tells Her Old Family Firm to 'Stuff Its Stuffiness'". People. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  14. Kirby, Walter (10 February 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
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