Clarissa Kaye

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Clarissa Kaye
Clarissa Knipe

c. 1931
Died21 July 1994
Other namesClarissa Kaye-Mason
James Mason
(m. 1971; died 1984)

Clarissa Kaye (c. 1931 – 21 July 1994)[1] was an Australian stage, film and television actress. She was the second wife (1971–84) of the British actor James Mason. After her marriage, she was often known as Clarissa Kaye-Mason.


Clarissa Kaye was born as Clarissa Knipe in Sydney around 1931. In 1958 she became one of a class of informal students of Hayes Gordon, who taught "The Method" (the group included Reg Livermore and Jon Ewing). Their first public performances were a series of one-act plays by Tennessee Williams. The group later became the Ensemble Theatre, Sydney's first theatre in the round and its longest established professional theatre company.[2][3]

Her first film role was as Meg in Age of Consent (1969), in which she appeared in scenes with James Mason, including a sex scene that was censored from Columbia Pictures' UK and US releases.[4]

Kaye was attracted to Mason and tracked him down after "Age of Consent". She wrote to Mason reminding him of their meeting and their sex scene in "Age of Consent," and he wrote back. He was older than she and probably was flattered. A correspondence between the two followed, and Kaye fueled the relationship by travelling long distance to meet him.


Mason and Kaye were married on 8 August 1971[1] in Corseaux-sur-Vevey, Switzerland,[5] and remained together until his death in 1984. (It has been reported that it was her second marriage.)[5] Kaye reportedly was willing to put her career on hold, but Mason regularly insisted that she be given roles in his films.[6] They shared scenes in Frankenstein: The True Story (1973); they also both appeared in Salem's Lot (1979), but did not share any scenes.

They appeared on Broadway in April 1979 in Brian Friel's play Faith Healer,[7] but were never on stage together (the play is constructed as four monologues by three characters). Her involvement in Faith Healer was also largely at Mason's request but she struggled with both the role and José Quintero's direction. Ed Flanders eventually left the play, refusing to work with Kaye, and the production ended after only 17 days.[8][9]


James Mason died in 1984, and Clarissa Kaye died on 21 July 1994 from cancer.[1] Before Mason remarried, his children Portland[10] and Morgan (both from his first marriage to Pamela Mason) were to be the beneficiaries of his large estate, valued at £15 million. Mason changed his will to leave Clarissa Kaye as the sole beneficiary, but the children understood from a letter that Mason wrote to them that they would still ultimately receive the proceeds after their stepmother's death. However, she was on such bad terms with them to the point of pathological jealousy that she cut them out of all photos with Mason.

Disregarding Mason's letter saying the children would get his money aster Kaye's death, Kaye out of spite left Mason's entire estate to an unidentified trust rumoured to be on behalf of the Sathya Sai Organization, run by devotees of the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba. The organization, based in an ashram near Bangalore, neither confirmed nor denied this.[11]

Mason's ashes were also the subject of controversy. Kaye initially had them in an urn in her home, never telling Mason's children she had them. She later deposited them in a Geneva bank vault, again to hide them without informing Mason's children. They tracked them down after Kaye's death, and took legal action to retrieve and inter them, and through court order by the judge who declared that his children deserved the right to choose the wording on their father's gravestone. In the end, neither Portland and Morgan received any of their father's belongings or money to pass on to their children.[citation needed]

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Biography for James Mason". Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Hayes Gordon OBE AO 1920-1999".
  3. ^ "Hayes Gordon AO OBE & The Ensemble Acting Studios". Archived from the original on 13 October 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Age of Consent". Archived from the original on 15 October 2010. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Milestones, Sep. 6, 1971". 6 September 1971. Time magazine. Retrieved 3 November 2014 (subscription required)
  6. ^ "James Mason: Odd Man Out". Bright Lights Film Journal.
  7. ^ " T. E. Kalem (16 April 1979) Theater: Touch and Go". Time magazine, Retrieved 3 November 2014 (subscription required)
  8. ^ Christopher Murray (24 April 2014). The Theatre of Brian Friel: Tradition and Modernity. A&C Black. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-1-4081-5451-9.
  9. ^ The Broadway League. "Clarissa Kaye - IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information".
  10. ^ Associated Press (27 May 2004). "Portland Mason Schuyler, 55, Child Actor". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  11. ^ Davies, Caroline (25 November 2000). "James Mason's ashes finally laid to rest". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 January 2018.

External links[edit]