Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, James Whale!

Born in 1899, red-headed filmmaker James Whale (looking rather like comic book character Jimmy Olson in the above still) is still talked about and highly regarded. Director of classic films like Journey's End (1930), Waterloo Bridge (1931), Show Boat (1936), and The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), his career was brief for someone of his stature in film history. All his best work was done in a ten year period (1930--1939).

But, of course, I love his famous genre titles:
Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and, especially, Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The comic touches in the last three are among the most memorable moments in a life spent watching movies.

Because his horror movies are his most influential, his other films, while respected, are largely forgotten. This is a shame, and he will surely be "rediscovered" for the rest of his work.

Now, too, he is celebrated or remembered almost as much for his outsider status as an openly gay man living in a more repressive era as he is for his films. He himself must have appreciated the irony of the title of his penultimate film: They Dare Not Love (1941).

Speaking of ironies, I remember a magazine that had a "bio" of the director which depicted Whale leaving Hollywood to open a harpooning-themed bar called The Blowhole. Of course, that's a cheap irony*, but a post at TDSH would be nothing without a cheap joke, even in a birthday remembrance for a famous director.

A director celebrated for his sense of humor in his work! Happy birthday, James Whale!

An interesting birthday entry on Whale can be found here.

Learn more about Whale and see some photos of the man at these links:

The James Whale Nexus

Senses of Cinema


* Still, I slapped my forehead in disbelief AND smiled at the gag, just like you did!


B-Sol said...

To a new birthday of gods and monsters!

Laleh said...

This is great info to know.


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