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James Whale (22 July 1889 – 29 May 1957) was an English film director, theatre director and actor, who spent the greater part of his career in Hollywood. He is best remembered for several horror films: Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), all considered classics. Whale also directed films in other genres, including the 1936 film version of the musical Show Boat.
|Born||(1889-07-22)22 July 1889|
|Died||29 May 1957(1957-05-29) (aged 67)|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)|
|Education||The Blue Coat School, Dudley|
Whale was born into a large family in Dudley, Worcestershire now Metropolitan Borough of Dudley. He discovered his artistic talent early on and studied art. With the outbreak of World War I he enlisted in the British Army and became an officer. He was captured by the Germans and during his time as a prisoner of war he realised he was interested in drama. Following his release at the end of the war he became an actor, set designer and director. His success directing the 1928 play Journey's End led to his move to the US, first to direct the play on Broadway and then to Hollywood, California, to direct films. He lived in Hollywood for the rest of his life, most of that time with his longtime romantic partner, producer David Lewis. Apart from Journey's End (1930), which was released by Tiffany Films, and Hell's Angels (1930), released by United Artists, he directed a dozen films for Universal Pictures between 1931 and 1937, developing a style characterised by the influence of German Expressionism and a highly mobile camera.
At the height of his career as a director, Whale directed The Road Back (1937), a sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front. Studio interference, possibly spurred by political pressure from Nazi Germany, led to the film's being altered from Whale's vision, and it was a critical failure. A run of box-office disappointments followed and, while he would make one final short film in 1950, by 1941 his film directing career was effectively over. He continued to direct for the stage and also rediscovered his love for painting and travel. His investments made him wealthy and he lived a comfortable retirement until suffering strokes in 1956 that robbed him of his vigor and left him in pain. He committed suicide on 29 May 1957 by drowning himself in his swimming pool.
Whale was openly gay throughout his career, something that was very rare in the 1920s and 1930s. As knowledge of his sexual orientation has become more widespread, some of his films, Bride of Frankenstein in particular, have been interpreted as having a gay subtext and it has been claimed that his refusal to remain in the closet led to the end of his career. Other commentators have contended that his retirement was provoked by a succession of poorly-received projects with which Whale was growing personally dissatisfied (particularly deleterious to his career was The Road Back, which went through development hell at multiple stages, whereafter the buck was perceived to stop with Whale as principal director).
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