1957. Long having retired, James Whale, arguably most famous for directing Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) among some other 1930s horror classics, has burned his bridges with the Hollywood community in that they have abandoned him, the possible exception being his continuing friendship with former lover David Lewis. James had been openly gay even during his working period and is in declining health. Having been recently released from a hospital where he was recuperating from a stroke, he left with some permanent health issues, the aftermath of the stroke. Much against the disapproval of his loyal longtime housekeeper Hanna, his health does not prevent him from toying with the handsome young men who may wander into his midst in his continuing homosexual desires, although Hanna is as much, if not more concerned about any of those young men taking advantage of him in his elderly and fragile state. The young man who catches his eye among the most recent is Clayton Boone, who Hanna had hired to do garden work around the property. Clay, an ex-marine from the proverbial "wrong side of the tracks", has no idea who James was or is before he starts this job. James and Clay soon begin a friendship of sorts. Clay is also unaware of James' homosexual orientation before such is confirmed by Hanna, an issue which threatens his masculinity, especially in light of the cracks showing in his casual sexual relationship with a slightly older and wiser diner waitress named Betty. Clay has to reconcile that threat against being in the company of someone whom he considers an interesting and once famous man. The friendship and his state of health related to the stroke lead James to reflect in a bittersweet vein on key points of his life, most notably serving in WWI, and as a result reveals his ulterior motives through the actions he takes toward Clay. —Huggo
What Great Movies Are All About?
Sometimes, great quality films don't take too much money to make and don't require a lot of star power. Here, we have Sir Ian McKellen CH KBE CBE in an Oscar nominated performance as the late great horror director, James Whale, who was also gay, artistic, and a genius. The film is based on a fictional novel about his life towards the end. In this film, James Whale is elderly and frail who encounters a handsome gardener, Clayton Boone (played wonderfully by Brendan Fraser in his best performance to date or since). Ian McKellen masters the role of the late director. They form an unlikely friendship. Clayton is oblivious to Whale's homosexuality or his film history at first. They become unlikely friends during their conversations. Whale knows his time is running out. The title comes from a line in his famous film, "Frankenstein." I don't care much for James Whale as a person. He seems too self-involved and cruel to his interviewer. The film also carries a Golden Globe winning performance from the late Lynn Redgrave OBE as his Hungarian Catholic housekeeper, Hanna. She is unforgettable in this role and her loses herself in developing her to be believable. Hanna is still devoted to Whale despite his sexual orientation. Still, the film is a character study. I loved the moment where Whale is reunited with Elsa Lancaster and Boris Karloff who was the Bride and Frankenstein at the Garden Party.
- May 3, 2013
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