James Curtis


“It is immaculately researched, smoothly written, honest without being lascivious, a model of its kind... I don’t expect to read a better film book this year.” - Scott Eyman, Boston Book Review

“The year’s most original film book.” — Philip French, The Observer (UK)

“James Curtis’ brilliant biography... at long last give[s] Whale his due.” — Joseph Reed, Vanity Fair

“Curtis has not only produced the standard work on Whale, but also a long-overdue revaluation of a major director.” — Sight and Sound (UK)

"This page-turner’s finest asset is the writer’s refreshing objectivity and compassion towards a man he obviously holds in high regard. An admirably balanced and beautiful study that will do much to restore the reputation of Whale as one of the masters of the horror genre.” — Dan Rider, Total Film (UK)

“... Thorough and fascinating...” — Steven Poole, Guardian (UK)

James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters

James Whale directed some of the most stylish and unusual movies of the 1930s, but he was most successful in a genre he virtually invented.

For it was Whale who, in 1931, took a lanky, middle-aged actor and sometimes truck driver named Boris Karloff and cast him in one of the most widely-seen films in the history of the cinema--as the tragic, patchwork creature of "Frankenstein".

Based on the phenomenal success of "Frankenstein", Whale directed three more classics of horror, each more sophisticated and morbidly humorous: "The Old Dark House", "The Invisible Man", and "The Bride of Frankenstein".

Whale also directed grim war dramas, light comedy, adventure, and mystery. The original "Waterloo Bridge" was a James Whale production, as was the classic swashbuckler "The Man in the Iron Mask". He even made the definitive version of the Hammerstein and Kern musical "Show Boat".

However, Whale’s success was short-lived. With his troubled production of Remarque’s "The Road Back", he was pitted against ominous forces that didn’t want the film made. His career faltered and, being openly gay, he found work increasingly hard to get. He quit just ten years after the triumph of "Frankenstein", and died a suicide only months before the film’s eventual release to television.

"A New World of Gods and Monsters" is the definitive life of James Whale, taking him from the poverty of England’s Black Country to the squalor of a German prison camp, the excitement of London’s West End, and--ultimately--to Hollywood, where he profoundly influenced several generations of filmmakers.

Originally published by Faber and Faber, 1998. New edition published by University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

Inscribed copies are available for sale via this website. Please hit the CONTACT ME button for details.

Selected Works

A celebration of one of film's most potent visualists!
"James Curtis’s informative and beautifully written book does a thorough job of bringing Menzies to life.” - Martin Scorsese
An actor's life like no other!
"A monumental, definitive biography of one of the finest film actors in the history of the medium." - Kirkus Reviews
Now available as eBooks!
"The definitive book about America's most profound comedian." - John Cleese
"One of the most entertaining and engrossing film biographies I've encountered." - Judith Crist
New edition!
"Essential for all who care about the cinema." - Kevin Brownlow
Now on DVD!
With commentaries by Gloria Stuart and James Curtis.