Tuesday, July 22, 2014
10 Classic Movies Directed by James Whale
1) Journey's End (1930) - Whale's first directorial effort was an adaptation of a 1928 stage play about World War I. Its cast included two actors who would later be major players in the Universal horror unit: Colin Clive and David Manners.
3) Frankenstein (1931) - Whale's first horror picture would shape the genre for decades to come, influencing countless later adaptations of Mary Shelley's Gothic novel. With Boris Karloff as the resurrected monster and Colin Clive as his mentally unbalanced creator, Whale crafted a stylish, wry, and genuinely terrifying masterpiece. Mae Clarke, Edward Van Sloan, and the deliriously mad Dwight Frye also contributed to Whale's success with their performances.
5) The Invisible Man (1933) - Whale's next horror production took the darkly humorous aspect of the genre to a whole different level, with the increasingly mad Claude Rains gamboling invisibly and wreaking havoc all over the English countryside. The film was the first screen role for Rains, who remains unseen until the very last shot, but his voice proved the real draw. Gloria Stuart and Henry Travers star as the friends trying to save Rains from himself, but Una O'Connor also demonstrates her ample talent for scene-stealing and an ear-piercing pitch.
7) Show Boat (1936) - Whale is remembered primarily for his horror, but this 1936 musical drama proved that he could also tap into tender emotions. Generally considered the best film adaptation of the original stage play, Whale's Show Boat gave the world both spectacle and sentiment, with touches of the Whale humor still in evidence. The cast includes many top stars, from Irene Dunne and Allan Jones to Charles Winninger and Helen Morgan, but the film is known today primarily for Paul Robeson's performance as Joe and his powerful rendition of "Old Man River."
8) The Great Garrick (1937) - After The Bride of Frankenstein, Whale moved away from horror, making several dramas and war films. This picture took Whale into the territory of the romantic comedy, with a period setting and Brian Aherne as David Garrick, the great theater personality of the 18th century. Other notable members of the cast include Olivia de Havilland, Edward Everett Horton, Lionel Atwill, and Lana Turner.
9) The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) - Whale continued the period theme with this adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas adventure, with Louis Hayward starring in the double role of the twin royals. Swashbuckling regulars in the cast include Alan Hale and Montagu Love, but Joan Bennett, Warren William, Joseph Schildkraut, and Albert Dekker also make appearances.
10) They Dare Not Love (1941) - Sadly, by the beginning of the 1940s Whale's career was more or less over. Show Boat had been his last truly memorable work. They Dare Not Love, a World War II drama starring George Brent, Martha Scott, and Paul Lukas, would be his last feature film.
In 1998, Whale's story became familiar to a new generation of moviegoers with the release of Gods and Monsters, adapted from Christopher Bram's novel, Father of Frankenstein. In the film, Ian McKellen plays the director at the very end of his life, while Brendan Fraser stars as the gardener who befriends him. You can also learn more about Whale by reading James Curtis' 2003 biography, James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters.