Years ago, I became fascinated with James Whale, the director of, most famously, Frankenstein (1931)and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). I've thought a lot about his motives for making those seminal Universal Pictures horror movies, and Bill Condon's 1998 film Gods and Monsters, is a sensitive speculation about Whale's last months.
Condon perfectly cast Ian McKellen as the troubled artist and Lynn Redgrave as the director's longtime house maid and confidant Hanna. Both actors were rewarded for their work with Oscars nominations. (Redgrave even won a best supporting actress Golden Globe and the film is generally credited with re-invigorating her career.)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Cast: Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave, Lolita Davidovich, David Dukes
Director: Bill Condon
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Remembered by: Randal Berry, retired snake charmer and muscian
This film itself is a remarkable journey through Whale's career and the nuances of his style, as Condon echoes his dialogue and camera angles. Whale's "tilted" and "close-up" shots in the laboratory scenes during both Frankenstein films, were something the public hadn't witnessed before.
A young Brendan Fraser, previously known primarily as the good-natured Troglodyte in Encino Man (1992), had his largest and best role to date as Clayton Boone, a young man Whale hires as a landscaper. The gay Whale is attracted to this young muscular man and begins to dote on him, perhaps wishfully. Whale takes him under his wing and introduces him to high class culture and former movie stars. Whale suffers throughout the film with a series of flashbacks, to his heyday when he was the toast of the Hollywood elite.
An Englishman, Whale had a successful career in drama, plays, and film works before moving to the United States in 1929 to make movies for Paramount Pictures. Considered by some to be an outsider, he was open about his homosexuality.
Whale committed suicide on May 29, 1957; drowning himself in his swimming pool. He was 67 years old, had suffered two strokes, and was struggling with his health. A suicide note was released decades later. It read:
To ALL I LOVE,
Do not grieve for me. My nerves are all shot and for the last year I have been in agony day and night -- except when I sleep with sleeping pills -- and any peace I have by day is when I am drugged by pills.
I have had a wonderful life but it is over and my nerves get worse and I am afraid they will have to take me away. So please forgive me, all those I love and may God forgive me too, but I cannot bear the agony and it [is] best for everyone this way. 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.
MovieStyle on 03/02/2018
Print Headline: Gods and Monsters