Richard Mason

Australian doc and feature producer

Richard Mason, Australian doc and feature producer best known for early collaborations with director John Duigan and actor Bryan Brown, died in Sydney on Nov. 22 of cancer and other complications. He was 76.

Mason was born on the South Coast of N.S.W. in 1926, the son of a country parson. At 18, he joined the army and was assigned to guard Italian POWs until war’s end.

Attracted to the stage, he joined Sydney’s Mercury Theater as an actor and co-starred with Peter Finch in Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid.” But his thesp talents were modest and Finch persuaded him he had no future as an actor, and helped Mason land a job as wardrobe assistant on the feature film “Eureka Stockade” (1949).

After that job, Mason worked his way up through the industry, starting as an assistant at the Colorfilm lab. In 1950, he joined the Commonwealth Film Unit (now Film Australia), where he directed some documentaries before becoming a producer and, eventually, chief of production. In that capacity he gave work to young Aussie hopefuls, including director Peter Weir.

He produced Film Australia’s first feature, kidpic “Let the Balloon Go” (1976). In 1978, he resigned from the organization when, in an overt act of political censorship, the government stopped the production of FA’s second feature, “The Unknown Industrial Prisoner.”

Mason set himself up as a producer, and his Alfred Road Films shingle had big hits with the Bryan Brown-Judy Davis starrer “Winter of Our Dreams” (1981), directed by John Duigan, and with “Far East” (1982), also starring Brown and directed by Duigan. A third collaboration with Duigan, “One Night Stand” (1984), was less successful, however.

Retired in recent years, Mason is survived by his wife, Elaine, and a son, d.p. Steve Mason (“Strictly Ballroom”) and two daughters.

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