Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Whale, James

(1896-1957) UK-born Hollywood movie director, who began his career as a cartoonist, then took to the theatre. His London stage version of Journey's End (performed 1928; 1929) by R C Sherriff (1896-1975) having been a major success, he came to Hollywood to film it – as Journey's End (1930). His first big hit, though, was Frankenstein (1931; > Frankenstein Movies), one of the great classics of "Hollywood Gothic"; it was sequelled by The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), which was even better. Before that came The Old Dark House (1932), the precursor of the comic Haunted-Dwelling movie à la the various versions of The Cat and the Canary; it was based on J B Priestley's Benighted (1927; vt The Old Dark House 1928 US). The Invisible Man (1933), based on the H G Wells novel, is a well judged mix of humour and the bizarre (>>> Invisibility). Remember Last Night (1935) is a comedy murder mystery of peripheral fantasy interest. Thereafter JW shifted his attentions elsewhere, making a mixture of major movies – e.g., Showboat – and minor ones, his standards slowly declining. In his fantasy movies JW's great talent was for creating atmosphere through lighting and angles; often this disguises poor scripts. [JG]

other works (selective): The Man in the Iron Mask (1939); Green Hell (1940), a Jungle Movie set in South America.

James Whale


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.