Whale committed suicide on May 29, 1957 by drowning himself in his backyard swimming pool.
Whale was openly gay throughout his career, something that was very unusual in the 1920s and 1930s. As knowledge of his sexual orientation has become more common, some of his films, Bride of Frankenstein in particular, have been interpreted as having a gay subtext and it has been claimed that Whale's refusal to remain in the closet led to the end of his career. However, Whale's associates dismiss the notions that Whale's sexuality informed his work or that it cost him his career.
James Whale's Brentwood Home
Whale suffered from mood swings and grew increasingly and frustratingly more dependent on others and his mental faculties were diminishing. Whale committed suicide by drowning himself in his swimming pool on 29 May 1957 at the age of 67. He left a suicide note, which Lewis withheld until shortly before his own death decades later. Because the note was suppressed, the death was initially ruled accidental. The note read in part:
"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.
Whale was cremated per his request and his ashes were interred in the Columbarium of Memory at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale. Because of Whale's habit of periodically revising his date of birth, his niche lists the incorrect date of 1893. When his longtime companion David Lewis died in 1987, his executor and Whale biographer James Curtis had his ashes interred in a niche across from Whale's.