In 1928, Whale was given the opportunity to direct a production of R.C.Sheriff's "Journey's End" which originally starred a young Lawrence Olivier. Lauded by critics and audiences alike, the play was eventually taken to New York, where it continued its acclaimed run on Broadway in the spring of 1929.
It was at this point, Whale became the epitome of a man in the right place at the right time. Hollywood was struggling to make the conversion to sound cinema, so raided the talent pools of the theatre.
The new position of 'Dialogue Director' was created to help established silent film directors. Whale was hired to assist Howard Hughes in the drama 'Hell's Angels' (1930). The same year Whale earned his first feature director credit with the adaptation of Journey's End (1930) with Colin Clive in the leading role. He was then signed by Universal Studios to direct wartime drama 'Waterloo Bridge', the film came in on time and under budget enabling Whale a future choice - he chose Frankenstein.
Frankenstein marked the full-fledged emergence of horror as a commercially viable Hollywood genre, Whale was elevated to the status of Universal's Premier Director.
Within five years Whale became one of a handful of directors in the studio system to attain almost total control over his projects, as long as the box office responded favourably.
Universal Studios management changed, and in 1937 after protests and threats of a German boycott by the then ruling Nazi Party, drastic cuts were made to his WWI drama 'The Road Back' (1937).
A disgusted Whale left and became freelance.
His last successful film was 'The Man in the Iron Mask' (1939) starring Louise Hayward as twins of royal lineage and Warren William as the Muskateer, Da Artagnan.