HOLLYWOOD actor Patrick Stewart unveiled a bust in Huddersfield yesterday in memory of another of the town's international stars, the late James Mason, and declared himself a fan.
"To be invited to participate in this is a terrific honour and a terrific thrill," he told an invited audience at the Lawrence Batley Theatre which included both Mason's son Morgan and the grandson who shares his name, James.
"I was a huge fan of this man and of his work. I tried to see everything he did. I thought the range of his talent was deep and profound."
And Mirfield-born Stewart, who began his career in classical theatre before heading for Hollywood, paid tribute to another actor from Yorkshire who had carved out a similar path for himself, years before.
"I thought that if someone from Huddersfield could go to London, star with the Old Vic in the West End and become one of the most respected and admired Hollywood actors of his generation, then perhaps the same thing might happen to me."
"I had tremendous admiration for this man's work and I thought that with a bit of luck, I might be able to follow in his footsteps."
The handsome bronze bust that he unveiled in the foyer of the LBT will stand as a permanent reminder of an actor who, though born in Marsh, went on to dominate the stage and silver screen.
James Mason began his stage career in England but was soon in demand in Europe and in Hollywood. His career spanned more than 50 years, during which time he starred in more than 150 major productions becoming Britain's top box office star in the 1940s. He once had seven of his films playing at the same time in New York.
Though based in Switzerland in the later years of his life, Mason never forgot his links with Huddersfield and this part of Yorkshire, something Stewart, who has just returned to England after 17 years in California, identifies with.
The bust was presented to the theatre by the Anglo-Suisse Artistic Foundation, an organisation devoted to fostering cultural links between the UK and Switzerland. Its director, Heather de Haes and its artistic director, Geoffrey Simon, were both present at the ceremony.
The original, by the Swiss sculptor Denis Perret-Gentil, stands on a section of vineyard near the home in Corseaux, above Vevey, Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where James Mason spent the last 22 years of his life and where he is buried.
After the unveiling, guests toasted the memory of James Mason, in a wine labelled with a self-portrait of the actor.
The wine was brought from Switzerland for the occasion where it was bottled as a tribute to him by the wine-growers of Corseaux.