Clarissa Kaye

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Clarissa Kaye
Born Clarissa Knipe
2 August 1931
Sydney, Australia
Died 21 July 1994(1994-07-21) (aged 62)
Other names Clarissa Kaye-Mason
Occupation Actress
Spouse(s) James Mason (1971–84)

Clarissa Kaye (August 2, 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]

Mason, who was over 20 years Kaye's senior, sent her a long letter telling her of his admiration; this was followed by a card the following Valentine's Day,[5] and a long correspondence ensued.[6]


Mason and Kaye were married on 8 August 1971[1] in Corseaux-sur-Vevey, Switzerland,[7] and remained together until his death in 1984. (It has been reported that it was her second marriage.)[7] Kaye reportedly was willing to put her career on hold, but Mason regularly insisted that she be given roles in his films.[8] 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,[9] 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.[10][11]


James Mason died in 1984, and Clarissa Kaye died on 21 July 1994 from cancer.[1] Before Mason remarried, his children, Portland[12] 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 that they would still ultimately receive the proceeds, after their stepmother's death. However, she was on such bad terms with them that she left her 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.[13]

Mason's ashes were also the subject of controversy. Kaye initially had them in an urn in her home, but later deposited them in a Geneva bank vault, without informing Mason's children. They tracked them down after Kaye's death, and took legal action to retrieve and inter them, and to choose the wording on Mason's gravestone.[13][14]

Selected 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. ^ "James Mason and Clarissa Kaye". Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Age of Consent". Turner Classic Movies. 
  7. ^ a b "Milestones, Sep. 6, 1971". 6 September 1971. Time magazine. Retrieved 3 November 2014 (subscription required)
  8. ^ "James Mason: Odd Man Out". Bright Lights Film Journal. 
  9. ^ " T. E. Kalem (16 April 1979) Theater: Touch and Go". Time magazine, Retrieved 3 November 2014 (subscription required)
  10. ^ Christopher Murray (24 April 2014). The Theatre of Brian Friel: Tradition and Modernity. A&C Black. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-1-4081-5451-9. 
  11. ^ The Broadway League. "Clarissa Kaye - IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". 
  12. ^ "Portland Mason Schuyler, 55, Child Actor". 27 May 2004. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  13. ^ a b "James Mason's ashes finally laid to rest". Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  14. ^ "Portland Mason obituary". Retrieved 3 November 2014. 

External links[edit]