Friday, November 27, 2020

James Mason is the “Odd Man Out”

Odd Man Out (1947) is a British film directed by Carol Reed and starring James Mason and Robert Newton. The film made Mason an international film star and elevated Reed to the ranks of the top directors of the day.

Johnny McQueen (Mason) is a member of the IRA and has been hiding out since his escape from prison in the home of Kathleen Sullivan (Kathleen Ryan). He’s been hiding out for six months and is suddenly ordered to rob a mill to get money for IRA activities. His men and associates wonder if Johnny is up to the job and suggest that another take the lead. Johnny doesn’t give up control and the robbery proceeds with Johnny in the lead, but things don’t go as planned.

Carol Reed (1906 – 1976) was an English film director. He directed several classic films including The Fallen Idol (1948), The Third Man (1949), and Oliver! (1968). Reed worked in a theatrical company in his teens. He eventually entered the film business in the UK where he worked his way up to the position of assistant director. He got his big break as a director with The Stars Look Down (1940) based on a novel by A. J. Cronin and starring Michael Redgrave. Other British films followed including Night Train to Munich (1940) starring Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison, Kipps (1941) with Redgrave again, and The Young Mr. Pitt (1942) starring Robert Donat.

James Mason (1909 – 1984) was an English actor who was a movie star in the UK before coming to Hollywood. His popular British films include The Seventh Veil (1945) and The Wicked Lady co-starring Margaret Lockwood (1945). His performance in Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out (1947) brought him international acclaim and success in Hollywood. In Hollywood he starred in four films in 1949: Caught, Madame Bovary with Jennifer Jones, The Reckless Moment with Joan Bennett, and East Side, West Side with Barbara Stanwyck. Other popular American films include The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951), The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), Julius Caesar (1953), A Star is Born (1954), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Island in the Sun (1957), North by Northwest (1959), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1959), and Lolita (1963). Mason continued to work in film and television up and to the time of his death.

Robert Newton (1905 – 1956) was a popular English actor and is probably best remembered for his role as Long John Silver in the Walt Disney version of Treasure Island (1950). His exaggerated accent in that role is credited with what we consider the “pirate voice.” Newton was a popular player in London’s West End and he also appeared on Broadway, replacing Laurence Olivier in Private Lives. He made several films in Hollywood including The Desert Rats (1953), Les Miserables (1952), Blackbeard the Pirate (1952), and The High and the Mighty (1954).

Many of the supporting players came from Dublin’s Abbey Theatre including Cyril Cusack, Robert Beatty, and Dan O’Herlihy.

Odd Man Out trivia:

  • The role was originally offered to Stewart Granger who rejected it when he saw how little dialogue he had.
  • James Mason thought this was the best performance in his whole film career.
  • The film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • The character of Father Tom has artwork in his church from the National Gallery in London and the Louvre!
  • The gang of street boys was played by children from St. Patrick’s Boys Home in Belfast.
  • This was the first British film to win the BAFTA award for Best British Film; BAFTA was established in 1948.

To watch the film on YouTube click on the link below.

To join the discussion on Zoom on December 1, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click on the link here. You’ll need to RSVP to get your Zoom invitation.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Many film critics consider Odd Man Out a film noir. Does this make sense to you?
  2. Do you think Johnny had his heart in the robbery?
  3. What did you make of Johnny’s collaborators and the people he encountered when on the run?
  4. Was the ending what you expected? Was it inevitable?
  5. The film has some beautifully shot scenes; do any stand out to you?

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