"It's safe to say that in the course of making some of the worst movies possible, Ed Wood has brought more joy to more people than 99 percent of the artists who've ever lived. If that doesn't inspire you, then you're dead inside."
"Ed finally became the hot Hollywood property he always wanted to be - he only had to be dead to do it."Who was Ed Wood?Short Answer: Edward Davis Wood Jr. (1924-1978) was that rare mix of relentless motivation and determination combined with a complete lack of natural talent. He was that guy who made Plan 9 from Outer Space and a bunch of other crappy movies. He also liked to wear dresses.Long Answer: Throughout his life, Ed Wood loved movies and wanted to make his own. In his teenage years, he became a Marine (eventually claiming to have fought at the Battle of Tarawa while wearing a bra and panties under his uniform; of this experience he once said that he wasn't afraid of being killed, but he was scared of being merely wounded - because he was afraid a medic would discover his secret). Later, he would join a freak show as a bearded lady. In the late forties, Wood would begin his career in movies. One of his first works was a play called Casual Company, based on a novel that was based on his life at the Marines. To foreshadow what was to come, the play suffered from extremely negative reviews.Ed Wood dabbled in television pilots, such as a soap Sun Was Setting (which amusingly had the alternative title of The Sun Also Sets) starring Lois Lane herself, Phyllis Coates, and Crossroad Avenger, which featured many of his Production Posse; the Western circled around The Tuscon Kid, who was a good old cowboy and insurance claims investigator. He even made television ad pilots, which advertised non-existant products, presumably a demo reel to show off his skills.His first actual film would be in 1953, Glen or Glenda? (based loosely on his novel Death Of A Transvestite), a semi-autobiographical tale about transsexuality and Ed Wood's love for crossdressing. During this time, he met and eventually became friends with Bela Lugosi. This was when the Dracula days were long gone and people thought he was dead, but this didn't stop Ed Wood from thinking of him as a legend among men. Bela would take a small part in Glen Or Glenda as a narrator now known for yelling "PULL THE STRING!!!" while clips of bison stampeding were shown.Ed Wood later became part of the B-Movie scene, befriending people such as Vampira (The '50s equivalent of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) and the Amazing Criswell. In 1955, he wrote and directed his first horror film Bride of the Monster. It starred Bela Lugosi as a mad scientist, a 400-pound wrestler named Tor Johnson as the hulking sidekick, and stock footage of an octopus.Wood wrote a successful film, The Bride And The Beast, directed by Adrian Weiss, complete with a weird Twist Ending. With his uncanny financial sense, however, the money he earned didn't last long.Wood began work on a film called The Ghoul Goes West, an intended expansion of his previous unfinished cowboy film "Crossroads of Laredo" - but now with Bela Lugosi and horror elements added in. Unfortunately, Lugosi died after filming a small scene. Wood improvised and used these clips for his next film, the now infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space. Produced by Southern Baptist ministers, the film would feature aliens using zombies to stop humans from destroying the Earth. Vampira, Tor Johnson, a bad Bela Lugosi stand-in, and Criswell, also appeared. The film was finished in 1956, but was not released until 1959 due to lack of a proper distributor.After filming Night of the Ghouls, which would not get released until 1987, Wood would turn to writing for exploitation films, such as The Violent Years and The Sinister Urge. The former was a long-running B-movie circuit hit, but Wood only earned $500 from it. Then in the early seventies and the last years of his life, he would end up writing for porn flicks, a career that did not agree with him: although Wood's previous films were bad, they were never sleazy. Wood's alcoholism spiraled out of control, and by the end he and his wife Kathy were so poor that they were evicted out of their flophouse apartment. Three days later Wood died of a heart attack at a friend's house while watching football. According to Rudolph Grey's book, "Nightmare of Ecstasy", the medics carried Ed's body away in plastic garbage bags.Two years later, Wood was named "Worst Director of All Time" and Plan 9 was named "Worst Movie Ever Made" in a book called The Golden Turkey Awards. By this point Ed Wood was long forgotten and most people who read the book had never heard of him. This "Award" created a resurgence of interest, resulting in a whole new audience of fans, and cult status for Ed Wood. He became the focus of an entire segment of It Came from Hollywood. Three of his films were riffed by MST3K. One of his scripts was made into a 1998 film, I Woke Up Early The Day I Died. Even a small religious group became named after Ed Wood.Less than 16 years after his death, Wood's life would become the plot for the 1994 film Ed Wood by Tim Burton starring Johnny Depp as Ed Wood. Deviating from the general real-life consensus of Wood, Burton's film was an affectionate portrayal of a man who tried his hardest, against all odds, to make his dreams come true. The film did not perform well at the box office, but was praised by critics, and eventually became a Cult Classic. One good-natured reviewer described it as, "The story of the least successful director of all time, as told by one of the most successful directors of all time." At the 1994 Academy Awards, Martin Landau won Best Supporting Actor for his extraordinary performance as Bela Lugosi. Ed Wood's legacy as one of the worst directors will never be forgotten.
—Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora
FilmographyFeature films both written and directed by Wood. He also wrote scripts for other directors.
- Glen or Glenda? (1953)
- Jail Bait (1954)
- Bride of the Monster (1955)
- Plan 9 from Outer Space (directed in 1956, released in 1958/1959)
- Night of the Ghouls (1959)
- The Sinister Urge (1961)
- Take It Out In Trade (1970)
- Excited (1970)
- The Only House (1971)
- Necromania (1971)
- The Young Marrieds (1971)
Ed Wood is known for these tropes:
- The Alcoholic: Which literally killed him - he died from alcohol-related problems.
- Alliterative Name: One of his professional pseudonyms was Danny Davis.
- Author Appeal: Angora, Bela Lugosi, monsters, cowboys
- Bad "Bad Acting"
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Not a bunny ears filmmaker, oh no, no, but a Bunny Ears Marine. He fought in some of the worst WWII Pacific bloodbaths and came back with a chest full of medals. And he claimed to do at least one battle while wearing women's underwear.
- And he lost all his front teeth when a Japanese soldier hit Ed in the mouth with the butt of his gun.
- Camp Straight: Ignoring his crossdressing, Wood was flamboyant on his own, but was very much a Loveable Sex Maniac into women.
- Cloudcuckoolander: As Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora would state, "Only Ed Wood would cast Dracula... as God!"
- Crying Wolf: While complications from his alcoholism probably still would've killed him, the heart attacks he'd fake to his wife as a cruel practical joke didn't help when he had his very real fatal one. It's rumored that she even yelled at him to shut up when he called for help.
- Dead Artists Are Better: He actually lived most of his life in obscurity. It was only after his death that he really gained recognition.
- Determinator: The man survived the bloodiest Allied battle in World War II - he applied that same drive to making films. No matter what obstacles, he was going to get that movie made, dammit.
- Downer Ending: How his life ended unfortunately. Ed Wood's depression reached an all time crushing low and he turned to chronic alcohol abuse. He and his wife were evicted from their Hollywood flat, and Ed Wood died just a few days later from a heart attack bought on by his alcoholism, and his widow Kathy never remarried or was able to get over his death until her own in 2006. That said...
- Bittersweet Ending: He managed to achieve his dream of being a famous director, and having people enjoy his films, albeit not in the way he probably would have envisioned originally. This only happened decades after his death though.
- Giftedly Bad: Ed is probably the best filmic example.
- Insult Backfire: What the Golden Turkey Awards writers tried to do when voting Wood the Worst Director and Plan 9 Worst Movie. What happened was it made cinemaphiles look back on Wood's career and begin honoring him for both his poor vision and his great heart.
- Keet: Oh, the enthusiasm he put into every film for sure. Rare films of Wood directing his films show him gallivanting around the set, joking with actors and having an enormously good time. Look Back in Angora described him as "pixie-ish".
- Loveable Sex Maniac: As he said in The Photographer: "I like girls, girls, girls, girls, girls! Tall ones, fat ones, skinny ones, it doesn't matter - blond hair, brunettes, redheads... girls! Girls! The only problem is - there isn't enough time for them!"
- Manly Tears: Kathy Wood said she first saw him, he was crying in a bar over something, which attracted her to him, saying she had a thing for lost puppies.
- Nice Guy - By all reports.
- Off-the-Shelf FX
- Real Men Wear Pink: He was a tough as nails Marine who loved Angora sweaters.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Wood did direct and/or write very successful films, but didn't get much money out of it. For instance, The Violent Years was a long-running theatrical release, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars - but Wood only made $500 off it.
- Stock Footage: He frequently used it in his films; far too often it tended not to match the footage he filmed himself.
- Sweater Girl - Not the crossdressing Wood himself, but his girlfriend.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story - Glen Or Glenda, which somehow became about Ed's own transvestite tendencies.
- Wholesome Crossdresser
"Aim for the stars and if, at the end of your life, you've only reached Mars, remember one thing. Stars flicker in and flash out. Mars is a planet. A constant light. A stable entry that will be here as long as life itself." - Ed Wood, Hollywood Rat Race