White began working in motion pictures in the 1910s, as a child actor, for Pathé Studios. By the 1920s his brother Jack White had become a successful comedy producer at Educational Pictures, and Jules worked for him as a film editor. Jules became a director in 1926, specializing in comedies.
In 1930 White and his boyhood friend Zion Myers moved to the prestigious Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio. They conceived and co-directed M-G-M's gimmicky "Dogville" comedies, which featured trained dogs in satires of recent Hollywood films (like The Dogway Melody and All Quiet on the Canine Front). White and Myers co-directed the Buster Keaton feature Sidewalks of New York, and launched a series of "Goofy Movies," one-reel parodies of silent-era melodramas.
With McCollum now shouldering some of the administrative burden, White was now free to pursue his first love: directing. He began directing the Columbia shorts in 1938 and would become the department's most prolific director. His approach was rooted in silent comedy, so he made his sound films the same way. He paced the visual action very fast, and coached his actors to gesture broadly and react violently. This emphasis on cartoonish slapstick worked well in the right context, but could become blunt and shocking when stretched too far. White was generally under pressure to finish his productions within a few days, so very often White the producer did not tone down White the director, and the outlandishly violent gags stayed in. Still, moviegoers loved these slam-bang short comedies, and Columbia produced more than 500 of them over a quarter of a century.
White's style is most evident in his string of two-reelers starring veteran comics Wally Vernon and Eddie Quillan. Vernon and Quillan were old pros whose dancing skills made them especially agile comedians. Jules White capitalized on this by staging the kind of rough-and-tumble slapstick unseen since silent-movie days, with the stars and supporting players doing pratfalls, crossing their eyes, getting hit with messy projectiles, having barehanded fistfights, and being knocked "cuckoo" in film after film. The extreme physical comedy in these films shows Jules White in complete charge. These were pet projects for White: he kept making Vernon and Quillan shorts long after most of his other series had been discontinued.
In 1956, when other studios had abandoned short-subject production, Jules White had the field to himself and experimented with new ideas. Many of his Stooge comedies now consisted of all-new material, featuring science-fiction or musical themes, and often including topical references to rock and roll and then-current feature films. White even launched a new series, "Girlie Whirls," as musical-comedy vehicles for plump comedienne Muriel Landers; only one film was made before White reassigned Landers to one of the Stooge comedies.
Almost 40 percent of Jules White's output stars the Three Stooges; the other films feature such screen favorites as Buster Keaton, Andy Clyde, Harry Langdon, Hugh Herbert, Vera Vague, and El Brendel. To date, only the Stooges and Keaton material has been released to home video.
White died of Alzheimer's Disease on April 30, 1985.