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James Whale Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (8) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (2)

Date of Birth 22 July 1889Dudley, Worcestershire, England, UK
Date of Death 29 May 1957Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (suicide by drowning)

Mini Bio (1)

James Whale, who grew up poor in an English mining town, learned to put on plays in a World War I German POW camp. Postwar theatre work took him to the London stage, then Broadway, then a contract with Paramount, as dialog director for Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels (1930). He began his contribution to the horror film genre with his move to Universal, directing Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931), notable for its sympathetic presentation of the monster, and The Invisible Man (1933) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), both notable for the humor he injected into horror. However, he disliked being identified with horror films only, and tried different subject matter. As he lost control over his own films under the new Universal regime, he retreated to a more private and hedonistic life, including painting and all-male pool parties, at one point separating from his longtime lover David Lewis. He suffered several strokes, and eventually committed suicide by drowning in his pool (he was afraid of water). His suicide note, to Lewis, read "The future is just old age and illness and pain . . . I must have peace and this is the only way". His last film, Hello Out There (1949), was never released.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Trade Mark (2)

Darkly comic sense of humor

Trivia (8)

Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Great Mausoleum, Columbarium of Memory, Niche #20076.
The painful last years of his life in Hollywood, where he was one of the few celebrities to live openly acknowledging his homosexuality, were depicted by Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters (1998).
Because Whale's status as a director at Universal under the Carl Laemmle regime grew until he was given total control over his films, many of his films carry the credit "A James Whale Production", even though Whale never actually produced his films; the producing chores were always handled by someone else.
Personally responsible for selecting Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 1197-1202. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Life partner David Lewis found him dead in Whale's Santa Monica swimming pool; he didn't disclose the suicide note until close to his own death in 1987, leaving Whale's death - up to that time - a mystery.
Retired from making films in 1941, except for an Army training film (Personnel Placement in the Army (1942)) and the unreleased Hello Out There (1949).
Four of his films were nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills: Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1939). "Frankenstein" made the list at #56.

Personal Quotes (4)

A director must be pretty bad if he can't get a thrill out of war, murder, robbery.
[on Boris Karloff] His face fascinated me. I made drawings of his head, adding sharp bony ridges where I imagined the skull might have joined.
[to Paul Robeson, upon hearing and seeing the "Ol' Man River" sequence in Whale's 1936 film Show Boat (1936)] The spine-chilling effect of that one song was something I shall never forget.
[on Frankenstein (1931)] That queer, penetrating personality of [Boris Karloff]'s was more important than his shape, which could be easily altered.

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