Edward Davis Wood, Poughkeepsie, NY, 10 October 1924.
Poughkeepsie High School, 1941; Kings School of Dramatic Art, Frank Lloyd
Wright Institute, Washington D.C., 1946.
U.S. Marine Corps, 1942–46.
Married to Kathy O'Hara Everett.
Wrote, produced, directed and starred in the play
The Casual Company
at the Village Playhouse, Hollywood, 1948; wrote and directed first film,
Crossroads of Laredo
, 1948; wrote, directed, and starred in first Hollywood feature,
Glen or Glenda
, 1953; wrote and directed several short films for the U.S. government,
1960; published first novel,
Black Lace Drag
10 December 1978, of a heart attack.
The Streets of Laredo
The Sun Was Setting (+ pr)
Glen or Glenda ; Crossroad Avenger: The Adventures of the Tucson Kid ; Boots
Jailbait (d only, + pr)
Bride of the Monster (+ pr)
Plan Nine from Outer Space (+ pr)
Final Curtain (+ pr); The Night the Banshee Cried (+ pr)
Night of the Ghouls (+ pr)
The Sinister Urge (d only, + story)
Take It out in Trade
Necromania ; The Only House
The Lawless Rider
The Violent Years
Orgy of the Dead
For Love or Money ; One Million AC/DC ; Operation Redlight ; Gun Runners
Class Reunion (co-sc); The Cocktail Hostesses (co-sc); Dropout Wife (co-sc)
The Beach Bunnies (co-sc)
Black Lace Drag , Raven Books, 1973.
Orgy of the Dead , Greenleaf Classics, 1966.
Parisian Passions , Corinth Publications, 1966.
WATTS—The Difference , Pad Library, 1966.
Side-Show Siren , Sundown Reader, 1966.
Drag Trade , Triumph News, 1967.
Bloodiest Sex Crimes of History , Pad Library, 1967.
Security Risk , Pad Library, 1967.
WATTS. . . After, Pad Library, 1967.
Devil Girls , Pad Library, 1967.
It Takes One to Know One , Pad Library, 1967.
Death of a Transvestite , Pad Library, 1967.
Suburbia Confidential , Triumph News, 1967.
Night Time Lez , Columbia, 1968.
Bye Bye Broadie , Pendulum Pictorial, 1968.
Raped in the Grass , Pendulum Pictorial, 1968.
The Perverts , Viceroy Books, 1968.
The Gay Underworld , Viceroy Books, 1968.
Sex, Shrouds, and Caskets , Viceroy Books, 1968.
The Sexecutives , Private Edition Books, 1968.
Sex Museum , Viceroy Books, 1968.
The Love of the Dead , Viceroy Books, 1968.
One, Two, Three , Viceroy Books, 1968.
Young, Black, and Gay , French Line Books, 1968.
Hell Chicks , Private Edition Books, 1968.
Purple Thighs , Private Edition Books, 1968.
Carnival Piece , Private Edition Books, 1969.
Toni: Black Tigress , Private Edition Books, 1969.
Mama's Diary , Toger Books, 1969.
To Make a Homo , Little Library Press, 1971.
A Study of the Sons and Daughters of Erotica , Secs Press, 1971.
Sexual Practices in Witchcraft and Black Magic , Secs Press, 1971.
Black Myth , Secs Press, 1971.
The Sexual Woman, Book Two , Secs Press, 1971.
The Sexual Man, Book Two, Secs Press, 1971.
Mary-Go-Round , Little Library Press, 1972.
The Only House , Little Library Press, 1972.
Forced Entry , Eros Goldstripe, 1974.
TV Lust , Eros Goldstripe, 1974.
Grey, Rudolph, Nightmare of Ecstasy , Los Angeles, 1992.
McCarty, John, The Sleaze Merchants , New York, 1995.
Hoberman, J., "Bad Movies," Film Comment , July-August 1980.
Lucas, Tim, " Glen or Glenda ," Cinefantastique , 1982.
Grey, Rudolph, "Hollywood Underground," Filmfax, March-April 1987.
Okuda, Ted, "Remembering Ed D. Wood Jr., a Moviemaker,"
Filmfax , March-April 1987.
Corliss, Richard, "The World's Worst Director," Time , January 1992.
Henderson, J. A., " Plan Nine from Outer Space ," Filmfax , June-July 1992.
Snead, Elizabeth, "Oddball Director Ed Wood Gains Fame, if Not Respect," USA Today , July 1993.
Rose, Lloyd, "The World's Worst Filmmaker—and Why We Love Him," Washington Post , August 1993.
Gliatto, Tom, "Master Ed," People Weekly , October 1994.
Foss, Kim, "Kultfilm af verdens værste instruktr," in Kosmorama (Copenhagen), vol. 40, no. 209, Autumn 1994.
Gendron, Sylvie, and Alain Dubeau, "Ed Wood: appelez-le Ann Gora," in Séquences (Montreal), no. 175, November-December 1994.
Schönherr, Johannes, "Ed Wood: verdans værste instruktr," Kosmorama (Copenhagen), vol. 40, no. 210, Winter 1994.
Baecque, Antoine de, "L'étrange Monsieur Ed Wood," in Cahiers du Cinema (Paris), no. 487, January 1995.
Andrew, Geoff, "Hopeless Pocus," in Time Out (London), no. 1292, 24 May 1995.
Thoret, Jean-Baptiste, Alain Schlockoff, and Cathy Karani, "Ed Wood: Écran fant," no. 142, May-June 1995.
Baecque, Antoine de, and Bill Krohn, "Wonder Wood. La cas Wood. Entretien avec Martin Landau," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 492, June 1995.
Marsilius, Hans Jörg, "Ein Skurriles Idol," in Film-Dienst (Cologne), vol. 48, no. 14, 4 July 1995.
Sesslen, Georg, "Ed Wood-die Originale," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), vol. 12, no. 9, September 1995.
Birchard, Robert, "Edward D. Wood Jr.—Some Notes on a Subject for Further Research," in Film History (London), vol. 7, no. 4, Winter 1995.
Ed Wood , 1994.
* * *
Ed Wood typifies the ultimate in filmmaking independence. His approach to filmmaking was that if no studio would hire him or finance his projects (which they wouldn't and didn't), he would make them himself, scrounging money from any available source. Wood fell in love with the movies at a very young age; he never wanted to be anything but a moviemaker, although he had little or no talent for the job. He began films in 8-millimeter even before he had reached his teens. Following a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II—where, according to legend, he stormed the beaches at Tarawa wearing ladies' underwear beneath his battle dress—he journeyed to Hollywood to realize his boyhood dream of making it big in the movie business.
His "breakthrough" came in 1953, with the George Weiss-produced exploitation feature on sex-change operations first known as Behind Locked Doors , then as Transvestite , and finally as Glen or Glenda. The film was originally intended to be a documentary on the life of transsexual Christine Jorgensen; ultimately it became a kind of self-portrait of Ed Wood himself, a classic apology for cross-dressing, and an obsessive ode to the delights of wearing angora sweaters.
Wood then made Jailbait (1954), which is about a gangster (Timothy Farrell) who undergoes plastic surgery to escape the law. Armed with a broken-down rubber octopus previously seen in a Republic Pictures John Wayne movie called Wake of the Red Witch (1948), a leading man (Tom McCoy) who couldn't act (but whose father provided some of the financing), as well as Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, and a somewhat better-than-usual script, Wood next created Bride of the Monster , an attempt at a horror picture in the style of the classic Universal films Wood had grown up on. What he achieved was closer in spirit to the low-rent series of horror flicks turned out by Monogram in the 1940s.
Wood always cited his masterpiece as Plan Nine from Outer Space , the film most closely associated with him. It has earned the reputation over the years as the worst movie ever made, which it isn't, although its shortcomings are enormous. The title (Wood originally wanted to call the film Grave Robbers from Outer Space ) refers to an alien plot to resurrect the earth's dead. Said aliens arrive in flying saucers made out of Cadillac hubcaps suspended on visible wires. Wood's spaceship interior is a lamely disguised soundstage decked out with a shower curtain and some other "futuristic" touches. These boldly executed shortcomings, however, may be why Plan Nine has outlasted many better-made films of the era in the public's mind.
To finance Plan Nine , Wood turned to a Baptist minister named J. Edward Reynolds, who saw the film as an opportunity to get into the movie business and use the profits to finance a series of religious films. In return, Wood agreed to have the cast and crew baptized by Reynolds prior to production. Soon he found his alcoholic/crossdressing personal life under fire. Reynolds used this as a wedge to get control of the finished film, then let it sit on a shelf for three years, unable to find a distributor.
Wood penned the screenplay for The Bride and the Beast (1958), about the attraction of a young wife (Charlotte Austin) to her husband's (Lance Fuller) pet gorilla, named "Spanky." But the next feature he directed was Night of the Ghouls (1958). Once again, Wood thought he was in Universal's classic monster territory, and once again he fell well shy of his intended mark. Forced to shoot in a severely cramped studio, he hastened to complete the film before the electric bill (which he couldn't pay) came due.
From Night of the Ghouls Wood plunged into The Sinister Urge (1960), billed as a "smut picture" and "portrait of a psycho killer." It was released as a double feature with a reissue of The Violent Years (1956), a film Wood had written. He also wrote the script for a sleazy "white trash" exploitation opus called Shotgun Wedding (1963) and for a combination horror-porno flick Orgy of the Dead (1965). In 1970, he directed his first "nudie" feature, Take It out in Trade , in which he once again donned an angora sweater to star. He followed it up with the harder-core Necromania (1971), from which it was only a small step to porno "loops" and a steady downslide to an untimely death in dire poverty in 1978 at the age of fifty-four.
Wood's saga was subsequently made into a film by Tim Burton, Ed Wood (1994), starring Johnny Depp as Wood and Martin Landau (who won an Oscar for his performance) as Bela Lugosi.