Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Whale, James

Entry updated 7 November 2022. Tagged: Film, People.

Icon made by Freepik from


(1889-1957) UK-born Hollywood director, in active service during World War One; his career in US Cinema began in 1929. His first film of genre interest was the classic adaptation of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus (1818; rev 1831) as Frankenstein (1931), a highly influential interpretation in which Boris Karloff plays what many still regard as the definitive Creature or Frankenstein Monster. Whale remains best known for this and three further excursions into Horror in SF: the comic The Old Dark House (1932), again starring Karloff and based on J B Priestley's Benighted (1927; vt The Old Dark House 1928); The Invisible Man (1933), starring Claude Rains and based on The Invisible Man (1897) by H G Wells; and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), starring Ella Lanchester in the title role (and also that of Mary Shelley) while Karloff reprises his interpretation of the Creature. The last of these, which shows the strong influence of German Expressionism, is generally considered to be Whale's masterpiece. His final Hollywood success was The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), based on the final segment of Alexander Dumas's Three Musketeers novel Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, ou Dix ans plus tard ["The Vicomte de Bragelonne, or Ten Years Later"] (1847). Whale retired from big-time cinema in 1941, continuing to work on minor films and to direct stage productions. After two strokes and treatment for depression he drowned himself in 1957. [DRL]

James Whale

born Dudley, Worcestershire: 22 July 1889

died Hollywood, California: 29 May 1957

further reading


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies