James Mason received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Norman Maine in A Star is Born.
James Mason is the second actor to be nominated for Norman Maine the first was Fredric March in the original. I thought he was good as Maine, but I also felt he basically treated the film better than the film treated him, since although his performance was good the film forced his character to make leaps, and did not give him as much time for development as needed. Luckily for Mason Norman Maine is given the proper time for proper character development, and luckily for the film Mason is more than up to the job of exploring the character of Norman Maine.
James Mason first of all gives an insanely charming performance in this film. Mason who actually really was not a Norman Maine type of star in terms of the romantic lead, Fredric March was, is instantly believable in the role as this type of star. I never at all doubted him as the original Norman Maine which is quite interesting because Mason could be as equally effective in slimy villainous roles. Here though Mason's charm simply is incredible. It is a simple very effective movie star charm that makes his performance completely wonderful to watch.
His chemistry with Judy Garland is equally wonderful. There relationship together is almost perfectly done, the way he first believes in her, than helps her succeed to become a star, than start a relationship, and get married is made completely natural throughout the whole relationship. There relationship just seems like real love between each other that is properly warm, and always feel authentic. I think one scene in particular shows the strength and honesty of their chemistry. That is the big musical number where Vicki (Garland) tells Norman about her new movie at home. This scene they have such a fun loving scene together that simply work wonderfully because Garland, and Mason are simply so natural together.
Norman Maine is a fading star though because of his alcoholism. Maine's alcoholism is something I thought was not given enough time actually in the first film, but it is in this one. Mason correctly shows Maine's alcoholism in the best way. He mostly subtle hints it as a disease, that adversely effects Maine, not all the time, but far too much of the time. He makes Maine descent into his alcoholism properly heartbreaking, because Mason shows Maine deterioration incredibly well.
I think two moments Mason particularly shines with this aspect of the character. The first being when he accidentally slaps Vicki at the Oscars, Mason reaction is completely effective, because again it feels so authentic. Even more powerful though is his reaction in bed, to Vicki saying she will give up her career for him. Mason's reaction is completely heartbreaking because of how truthfully he shows Norman's pain. Mason's performance is excellent throughout giving a likable, heartfelt performance, that works perfectly along with Judy Garland's equally strong work.