James Whale: Frankenstein's Gay Father

James Whale director of Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, This Old Dark House, and The Invisible Man, was a true maverick.  Living life during the dark ages of sexual freedom, Whale never hid the fact from anyone that he was gay.  He may not have taken out a page in Variety to broadcast the fact, but everyone that knew him, knew his story.

Dubbed, "The Queen of Hollywood", by certain hateful Hollywood honchos, Whale not only made a mark in horror films, he also directed such classics as Showboat (the 1936 version) , and The Man in the Iron Mask.

Oddly, Whale's career started to plummet after he made the film,  The Road BackThe Nazi German consul  of Los Angeles protested that Whale's depiction of German soldiers and Germany in general were distorted in his film and they wanted the movie cut.  Whale refused and with the support of The Hollywood Anti Nazi League and the Screen Actor's Guild, his film was released untouched - at first.  However, for whatever reasons, the studio backed down, re cut and released The Road Back which infuriated Whale.

After this debacle, Whale was regulated to B-films only.

Upon leaving the film world, James Whale directed live theater but remained friends with a lot of Hollywood insiders.  He also had several long time companions as well as a handful of boyfriends to help him pass the time.

Whale become ill and at the age of 65 suffered several strokes that left him weak and dependent on a care taker and nurse. At the age of 67, despondent over his failing health, James Whale threw himself into his swimming pool and drowned.

The last line of his suicide note read: The future is just old age and illness and pain. Goodbye and thank you for all your love. I must have peace and this is the only way.

Younger generations became aware of Whale with the release of the 1998 film, Gods and Monsters which portrayed a fictionalized depiction  of the director's final days.

For a more scholarly look at Mr. Whale GO HERE.


Tower Farm said...

What a cool guy -- to live openly and imbue so many of his films with a clear gay sensability. I went to a Q&A with Sara Karloff (daughter of Boris) not long ago and she talked about how much her father enjoyed working with "Jimmy Whale" and how much he trusted him. Too bad Whale wasn't able to go on to a longer career in making movies.

kindertrauma said...

Whale's contribution to horror was gargantuan and can ever be stated enough. Thanks for putting the BLS spotlight on this brilliant man!-Unk

Pax Romano said...

Billy, indeed -- he was ahead of his time.

Unk, You are very welcome!

Carl (ILHM) said...

Gods and Monsters was an excellent depiction of his life, but a sad one at that. Great selection here Pax!