Email this review


 The fictionalized last days of James Whale, the gay Hollywood director who made Show Boat and Frankenstein, are uncompellingly and clunkily rendered by Bram (Hold Tight, 1992, etc.). After suffering a series of strokes, the 67-year-old director returns to his mansion in the Santa Monica Canyon, where he tries to recuperate by painting reproductions of Rembrandts. Having quit the studio system years before, Whale is rather removed from his old life, and his loneliness is exacerbated by his former longtime lover being away in New York. The strokes cause him to hallucinate about the past, and there are numerous flashbacks of Whale interacting with silver-screen legends like Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, and Greta Garbo, as well as a fairly silly remembrance of his first homosexual encounter. Now, his only companionship comes from his elderly Mexican servant (a bundle of pious clichÇs) and his new gardener (a hulky, homophobic ex-marine also drawn from the cardboard-cut-out school of characterization). Hoping to rein in his galloping mind, Whale tries to persuade his gardener to pose for him; and although he is initially put off by a playful pass, he agrees to sit, whereupon Whale randomly rambles on about his life, inexplicably stunning the gardener with the revelation that Whale is in fact a real, live homosexual. Increasingly despondent over his deteriorating health, Whale later accosts the gardener in order to provoke lethal violence. By telling us early on that Whale will soon die, the only suspense here is in finding out just how. This puts a serious burden on Bram's ability to paint the details of Whale's interesting life from poor Londoner to a WW I trench soldier to an openly gay, powerful movie figure of the 1930s and '40s: Unfortunately, the novel collapses under the strain of this meandering and awkwardly written exercise. A lumbering, toothless monster.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1995
ISBN: 0-525-93913-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995


NonfictionTHE ART OF HISTORY by Christopher Bram
by Christopher Bram
NonfictionEMINENT OUTLAWS by Christopher Bram
by Christopher Bram
FictionEXILES IN AMERICA by Christopher Bram
by Christopher Bram