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


Director (9)

The Man in the Iron Mask 1938 (Movie)


Show Boat 1936 (Movie)


Bride of Frankenstein 1934 (Movie)


One More River 1933 (Movie)


The Invisible Man 1932 (Movie)


The Kiss Before the Mirror 1932 (Movie)


Frankenstein 1931 (Movie)


The Old Dark House 1931 (Movie)


Waterloo Bridge 1930 (Movie)

Other (2)

Shocker 1989 (Movie)

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

Hell's Angels 1929 (Movie)

(Dialogue Director)


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.


Sarah Whale


Whale was the sixth of seven children

Pierre Foegel

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

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


Doris Zinkeisen

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


Dudley School of Arts and Crafts



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


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


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


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


Last film for Universal, "Green Hell"


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


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


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


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


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


Replaced Robert Florey as director of "Frankenstein"


First film for Universal, "Waterloo Bridge"


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


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


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


Signed contract with Universal Studios (date approximate)


Successfully restaged "Journey's End" on Broadway


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


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


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


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


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