A Desert Fox in My GardenThursday, June 14, 2018
|Rosa 'James Mason' June 14 2018|
English rose hybridizer Peter Beales (he died in 2013) had the botanical temerity of launching into the garden market of 1982 a rose that would only bloom once. There was and still is competition with roses that are remontant (bloom more than once). What made it more unusual is that this rose was a modern Gallica (Gallicas are ancient roses). This was the equivalent of Ford producing in that year (it didn’t) and all-black Model-T.
The rose is called Rosa ‘James Mason’. I have no idea if Mason, the actor was a rosarian (liked and grew roses). But in the article on his eventual internment in Geneva (not far from Charles Chaplin) his family is quoted as saying, “He would have been happier sprinkled on a rose garden.”
Rosa ‘James Mason’ is huge in our Kits garden. It is Rosemary’s favourite rose. She particularly admires the plentiful and golden stamens. For me the rose is an avenue to my past in Buenos Aires, to the year 1951 when my father took me to see The Desert Fox and the next year to see the spy thriller Five Fingers. Years before in Austin, Texas it was Mason’s voice in my Grade 10 English class that lured me into enjoying Edgar Allan Poe in Poe’s poem Annabel Lee.
That a rose, a red rose with golden stamens, can conjure all that, is proof why I am bonkers over roses.
James Mason's ashes finally laid to rest
By Caroline Davies
12:00AM GMT 25 Nov 2000
THE ashes of James Mason, the actor, were laid to rest by his family yesterday in a tiny Swiss cemetery on the shores of Lake Geneva, 16 years after his death.
James Mason's grandson, James, at his grandfather's grave in Switzerland
It was a simple ceremony but one his daughter Portland, 52, and son Morgan, 45, thought that they might never see. The years since their father's death have been marred by a legal battle, first with their stepmother, Clarissa Kaye, and then, after her death six years ago, with administrators of her estate.
Clarissa bequeathed Mason's estate to a trust and, although his children have not been able to prove who the beneficiaries are, their lawyers believe them to be devotees of Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian guru whose sect, based in an ashram near Bangalore, has a large following.
So acrimonious has been the dispute that for many years Mason's only offspring had no idea where their father's ashes were. Finally, after lawyers traced them to a bank vault in Geneva, they faced another struggle to get them released for burial.
Watching his son, also James, place flowers on the grave yesterday, Morgan, a film producer, said: "My son has never been to the village my father lived in before. Whenever he has asked to visit his grandpa's grave I have had to say 'no' because, until today, he didn't have one. It is a very emotional moment for us."
"It is like a dream," said his sister Portland at the cemetery in the village of Corsier-sur-Vevey, close to the home in Corseaux where their father lived for the last 22 years of his life. "Sometimes I thought it would never happen. And now he is here. It is wonderful. It has been so, so long."
Mason, born in Huddersfield, West Yorks, whose film career spanned 50 years and included Lolita, A Star is Born and North by Northwest, was laid to rest close to the grave of his friend and neighbour, Charlie Chaplin.
The ceremony, attended by Mason's nephew Christopher, as well as the British ambassador Christopher Hulse, was followed by an exhibition in the village of Corseaux celebrating his work. Morgan, married to the singer Belinda Carlisle, arrived late for the ceremony after being delayed by flooding near his home in Nice.
It was after Mason's death from a heart attack, aged 75, that his children found themselves locked into an emotional and seemingly intractable battle with Clarissa, their father's Australian-born second wife. His will left everything to Clarissa, including his home on the lakeside, other properties, drawings, diaries and the royalties from his career.
Mason felt that she had sacrificed everything for him, especially when she abandoned her Hollywood career to support him when he left Hollywood in 1963, and he wanted her to live her last days in comfort.
In a letter dated May 7, 1976, he told his children, both from his first marriage: "It does not mean that I love you any the less than always, and that's the top. I hope you will understand why I have decided to make you, as it were, stand in line."
The children, who challenged the will, understood it to mean that on Clarissa's death they would inherit their father's estate, valued at up to £15 million. But, by the time of her death from cancer Clarissa, who had no children, harboured a "pathological" hatred of the two, according to Mason's friends, even cutting them out of family photographs.
Morgan said: "Clarissa turned to Sai Baba in the last years of her life. When she died the house was filled with photographs of him. I have nothing against Sai Baba. If he is a wonderful religious man then I am prepared to accept that. But what I am not prepared to accept is that he is going to have my father's home, where I grew up with my sister. That doesn't make any sense to me."
One of the three trustees, an Australian woman, is a devotee of Sai Baba, say Mason's family, who met Clarissa in the last years of her life. The Sai Baba organisation has never confirmed or denied that it is the beneficiary.
Mason's children claim that they were forced to track down their father's ashes and then go to court to have the wording of their choice on his tombstone. Morgan said: "Finally we won when the judge said, 'I think the children ought to be allowed to say what they want on their own father's headstone'."
They chose the words: "Never say in grief you are sorry he's gone. Rather, say in thankfulness you are grateful he was here." Portland, who lives in California, said: "They were the words Teddy Kennedy said when he rang me just after father's death. They have stuck in my mind ever since. I think they are beautiful."
The children claim that lawyers for the trust said Clarissa's wishes were for something biblical. Morgan said: "We didn't want anything biblical. He would have thought that was pretentious if we had chosen a religious statement. We just wanted to sum up his temperament, and his attitude, which was 'It was a good life and I am happy that I was here and brought some pleasure to people'.
"He would have been horrified by all this. He would have been horrified to be in a bank vault for all those years. He would have been happier sprinkled on a rose garden. These people have nothing to do with our family. I don't have one suit or one tie from my father. I have an eight-year-old son who doesn't have one piece of memorabilia of his grandfather. Forgetting about the money and property, which of course are very important things, they won't even give us the emotional things.
"I wouldn't be speaking about it publicly if I didn't find it so absolutely bizarre. I don't want my son and my family to go through this forever. But, I also don't want to be foolish and say 'Okay, forget it. Take it'. We have certainly taken all legal courses, and I won't stop doing that. And I don't think my father would want me to stop doing it, much as he hated litigation."