James Whale was an oddity in Hollywood among a lot of odd people. His began an interest in theatre while in a German POW camp. He worked his way through London and eventually he made it to Broadway. Once there, the allure of film soon called him to Hollywood where he started racking up lots of credit as a director of Horror films. He was one of the few directors of the time that was given total control of his films…for a while.
He was always eccentric, which works in your favor in Hollywood, but he was also openly gay at a time when that tended to under producers. His all-male pool parties became notorious. He eventually he committed suicide by drowning himself in his pool in 1957. His fear of water was quiet well known, and his lover hide the suicide note from the public until close to his own death. That way Whales death remained a mystery for years.
Whale directed more than just horror films, and it bothered him that his horror films were what he was known for even though he directed the musical Showboat and Waterloo Bridge. But he will always be known for his horror films. Frankenstein alone grossed over 12 million during its first release. His film The Old Dark House in 1932 is credited with creating the whole “Dark House” sub-genre. His next big hit, though not his next film, was The Invisible Man in 1933. Author H.G. Wells himself had approved the script. It was a huge hit due to Whales blend of humor as well as horror and special effects. It was becoming obvious that Whales knew what he was doing.
It was in 1935, however, that Whales delivered what many feel to be his masterpiece: The Bride of Frankenstein. He had no desire to do a sequel to Frankenstein, though there was that part in the original Mary Shelley novel where the monster told Frankenstein that he would leave society alone if he made him a mate, and that intrigued Whale. So he made the film and it was a big ‘ole whopping, stinking hit.
So here’s to a man who was brave enough to be himself at a time when other’s saw that lifestyle as monstrous; a man who when he had had enough and did something about; a man whose creativity can be seen in every frame of film. Thanks for the movies, Mr. Whale.