James Whale

Director, Stage designer, Actor
One of the most stylized and talented filmmakers of the 1930s, director James Whale was also one of the most successful; a fact that stood in direct contrast to his long-underappreciated stature in the history of ... Read more »
Born: 07/22/1889 in West Midlands, England, GB

Filmography

Director (9)

The Man in the Iron Mask 1938 (Movie)

(Director)

Show Boat 1936 (Movie)

(Director)

Bride of Frankenstein 1934 (Movie)

(Director)

One More River 1933 (Movie)

(Director)

The Invisible Man 1932 (Movie)

(Director)

The Kiss Before the Mirror 1932 (Movie)

(Director)

Frankenstein 1931 (Movie)

(Director)

The Old Dark House 1931 (Movie)

(Director)

Waterloo Bridge 1930 (Movie)

(Director)
Other (2)

Shocker 1989 (Movie)

film extract("Frankenstein" (1931)) (Other)

Hell's Angels 1929 (Movie)

(Dialogue Director)

Biography

One of the most stylized and talented filmmakers of the 1930s, director James Whale was also one of the most successful; a fact that stood in direct contrast to his long-underappreciated stature in the history of cinema. Arriving in Hollywood at the dawn of the sound era, he made a name for himself around town with the war dramas "Journey's End" (1930) and "Waterloo Bridge" (1931). It was, however, the Universal horror classic "Frankenstein" (1931) that established Whale as an A-list director, influential enough to choose his own projects and cast them as he saw fit. Despite his best efforts to diversify, hugely popular films like "The Invisible Man" (1933) and "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) pigeon-holed him as a horror director, even as critics who were dismissive of the genre failed to recognize his formidable visual and aesthetic brilliance. Although the critically hailed musical drama "Show Boat" (1936) gave unassailable proof as to his versatility, a regime change at Universal and his general disillusionment with the industry eventually led to Whale's retirement from film after a decade's worth of work. Having fallen out of fashion with the French and American <i>auteur</i> critics of the 1960s and 1970s, more in-depth assessments by biographers and film historians in the years that followed allowed for a much deserved reappointment of Whale to the pantheon of influential 20th century filmmakers.

Relationships

Sarah Whale

Mother

Sibling
Whale was the sixth of seven children

Pierre Foegel

Companion
met Whale in Paris when the director was traveling abroad c. 1951 Foegel became his chauffeur, housekeeper and traveling companion moved in with Whale c. 1952 separated Whale's will left one-sixth of his estate to Foegel

David Lewis

Companion
worked as an associate producer at RKO (1933-34) and at MGM (1935-37) became a full producer at Warner Bros. (1938-43) and served as such on several films at Paramount in 1944 later produced several films independently for various studios between 1945 and 1957 he and Whale met in 1929, they lived together c. 1930-1954 and remained close friends thereafter Whale's will left one-sixth of his estate to Lewis died in 1987

William Whale

Father

Doris Zinkeisen

Companion
she and Whale were engaged for a brief period in the 1920s, but called off the wedding and remained lifelong friends thereafter

EDUCATION

Dudley School of Arts and Crafts

Milestones

1951

Last work as a director: helmed a production of the play, "Pagan in the Parlour", at the Pasadena Playhouse, and later arranged to take the play briefly to England

1949

One-shot return to film directing: "Hello, Out There", a 40-minute, one-set segment produced at a TV studio to be used in an RKO anthology film; never released

1943

Briefly returned to Broadway work during WWII; directed "Hand in Glove" for the Playhouse Theater, but the play's run was short

1940

Began but did not finish "They Dare Not Love" for Columbia; replaced by Charles Vidor but his contract stipulated that he receive screen credit

1940

Last film for Universal, "Green Hell"

1939

Made "The Man in the Iron Mask" for the independent Edward Small Productions

1937

Film sequel to "All Quiet on the Western Front", "The Road Back", taken away from Whale and re-edited to offset official protests from Nazi Germany

1937

Whale loaned out to Warner Bros. and MGM, respectively, for two films, "The Great Garrick" and "Port of Seven Seas"

1936

Whale's expensive filming of "Show Boat" not completed in time to save Universal from receivership; executive producers Carl Laemmle Sr and Jr replaced by more cost-conscious executives appointed by a bank

1935

Made last of four classic horror films, "Bride of Frankenstein"

1931

Replaced Robert Florey as director of "Frankenstein"

1931

First film for Universal, "Waterloo Bridge"

1930

Last stage work for over a decade, "Badger's Green" by R C Sherriff, with settings and direction by Whale, and "The Violet" and "One Two Three", two one-act plays by Ferenc Molnar, in which Whale directed Ruth Gordon

1930

Served as dialogue director of "Hell's Angels" and also, uncredited director on some scenes

1930

Made full-fledged directing debut, "Journey's End" (adaptation of his London and Broadway stage success)

1930

Signed contract with Universal Studios (date approximate)

1929

Successfully restaged "Journey's End" on Broadway

1929

Moved to Hollywood; first film credit, dialogue director of "The Love Doctor", directed by Melville Brown and starring Richard Dix

1928

Breakthrough stage success, "Journey's End", a play by R C Sherriff with settings and direction by Whale

1928

Directed and did the settings for the plays, "Fortunato and the Lady from Alfaqueque" and "The Dreamers" in England, working with the likes of and up-and-coming John Gielgud and the established Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies

1924

Began working with the Oxford Players for three seasons; worked with, among others, John Gielgud, Flora Robson, Alan Napier and Raymond Massey

1918

Moved to London to pursue stage career

Turned down an offer from David O Selznick to be put under contract as a director at $1,000 a week

Turned down an offer by producer William Dozier to film an adaptation of H G Wells' "The Food of the Gods"

Began acting while a POW in WWI; after war worked in British theater as actor and designer, then director

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