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Ed Wood

Updated on August 22, 2014
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Nerd, cinephile, TV-junky, research-loving, left-leaning, science-fiending, atheist from the gutter. Follow me on Twitter @TheGutterMonkey.

Who Is Ed Wood Jr.?

Edward D. Wood Jr. (or Ed Wood, as he was most commonly known) was an American screenwriter, film director, actor, producer, editor, author, war veteran, ex-side show freak, and crossdresser. He has famously been cited as being The Worst Director Of All Time due to the clumsy, rushed look of his films, their cheaply made special effects, and many technical errors. But it was with Wood's immense passion for film, his love of the craft, and his enthusiasm at his job, that he has also become an inspiration for many of his fans who understand that no matter how bad of a director he was, at least he chased his dreams.

Born on October 10, 1924, Wood's passion for film began almost immediately. During his childhood he was known to have adored movies and at 12 years old he had acquired his first camera. His first paying job was even as an usher at a cinema. It was at movie theaters such as these where Wood first began salvaging stills from movies that the theaters had left out for the trash.

Also during his childhood Ed Wood first began his lifelong love for crossdressing. It is said that his mother, who had always longed for a girl, dressed her son in girls clothing. She would continue dressing her son up like this up until he was around 12 years old. The habit never left Ed Wood and he continued to wear women's clothing openly for the rest of his life (his favorites were angora sweaters); it is believed that he even wore a bra and panties beneath his uniform when he was in the Marines.

Wood's first big break in the film making business was with the semi-autobiographical film about transvestism, entitled Glen or Glenda. This was also the first Ed Wood film to feature horror movie legend Bela Lugosi. Lugosi, who had become typecast and was having troubles finding a job, was in his latter years when he began his friendship and working relationship with Ed Wood, and Wood used Lugosi's name to help get the studios to recognize his scripts and help him get his movies made. The two made several films together, including the cult classic Plan 9 From Outer Space, which was shot after Lugosi's death (using film footage Wood had leftover and a lookalike who stood in for Lugosi's character by covering the lower half of his face with a cape during all of his scenes). During Wood's final years he had resorted to making mostly nudie and exploitation films, and wrote many pulp, horror, and sex novels and short stories. Up until his death in 1978, Wood had written over 80 novels in addition to hundreds of short stories and non-fiction pieces for magazines

While he never received much recognition during his lifetime, Wood, as a person and a film maker, has since become a legend in his own right. In 1994, director Tim Burton made a film about Wood's life that starred Martin Landau and Johnny Depp, and won 2 Academy Awards.

Ed Wood in Glen or Glenda
Ed Wood in Glen or Glenda

Things You May Not Know About Ed Wood

Did you know...

  • He prided himself on the fact that he was the only filmmaker of his era other than Welles to be writer, director, and actor in his own films, although it is likely that Wood took on all of these functions to save time and money.
  • The continued interest in Wood led to two of his steamy adult paperbacks being reset and republished. They included "Death of a Transvestite" (1967, aka "Let Me Die in Drag") republished in 1995 and 1999, and "Killer in Drag" (1965) that was republished in 1999.
  • A surviving non-fiction manuscript, supposedly written by Wood, about working in Hollywood was published as "Hollywood Rat Race" in December 1998.
  • His first wife, Norma McCarty, kicked him out of their house on their wedding night when she discovered he was wearing women's underwear. The marriage was never consummated, serving as grounds for an annulment less than six months later.
  • Upon returning to the US following WWII, he briefly attended Northwestern University in Chicago before joining a travelling carnival where he started out as the Geek, biting the heads off of live chickens, before becoming the Bearded Lady.
  • Enlisted in the US Marine Corps in May of 1942. His claims to wearing women's underwear in battle never seem to distract him from his duty: In addition to taking part in combat in the Marshall Islands and Naumea, he also survived the bloody battle for Tarawa. By all accounts he was a fierce combat soldier. During the invasion he had most of his front teeth knocked out in hand-to-hand combat with a Japanese soldier. Wood later served in a G-2 (intelligence) unit in the South Pacific, until he was machine-gunned up one of his legs which then became gangrenous. He served out the remainder of his time as an office typist, and was honorably discharged in 1944. He was decorated with the Silver and Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, and Sharpshooter's Medal. By all accounts, Wood was an exemplary combat soldier.
  • Born October 10th, the same day that his idol Orson Welles died many years later.
  • Four of his films have been lampooned on the television series "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (1988): The Unearthly (1957), Bride of the Monster (1955), The Violent Years (1956) and The Sinister Urge (1960). MST's producers considered including Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), but found it had too much dialog for the show's format, and that it would make too obvious a target, stating that "Everyone's made fun of 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'." Series regular and head writer Michael J. Nelson would, however, go on to do an audio commentary for a 2006 DVD release.
  • Hired Lyle Talbot and Bela Lugosi at the nadir of their careers. Both actors would be paid off daily in cash, not necessarily by their demands (although Lugosi was often insistent due to his heroin habit). Wood habitually paid off everyone, cast and crew, in cash. In the last few years of his life this habit led to him being rolled stumbling out of liquor stores in the seedy neighborhood he lived in.
  • At the time of his death, the industry newspaper, Variety, failed to run his obituary.

Great Ed Wood stuff from Amazon

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Ed Wood (Special Edition)
Ed Wood (Special Edition)

From Tim Burton, acclaimed director of BIG FISH, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and BATMAN, and the producer of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, comes the hilarious, true-life story of the wackiest filmmaker in Hollywood history, Ed Wood! Johnny Depp (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, CHOCOLAT, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS) stars as the high-spirited movieman who refuses to let unfinished scenes, terrible reviews, and hostile studio executives derail his big-screen dreams. With an oddball collection of showbiz misfits, Ed takes the art of bad moviemaking to an all-time low! The all-star cast features Bill Murray (LOST IN TRANSLATION, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS), Sarah Jessica Parker (TV's SEX AND THE CITY), Patricia Arquette (STIGMATA, LITTLE NICKY), and an Academy Award(R)-winning performance by Martin Landau (Best Supporting Actor, 1994) as Bela Lugosi. Hailed by critics everywhere, this laugh-packed comedy hit is sure to entertain everyone!

 
The Ed Wood Box (Glen or Glenda / Jail Bait / Bride of the Monster / Plan 9 from Outer Space / Night of the Ghouls / The Haunted World of Ed Wood)
The Ed Wood Box (Glen or Glenda / Jail Bait / Bride of the Monster / Plan 9 from Outer Space / Night of the Ghouls / The Haunted World of Ed Wood)

Weird! Wild! Wood! The most legendary B-movie director of all time, Edward D. Wood, Jr. assaulted audiences worldwide with a string of bizarre, no-budget fusions of horror, science fiction, noir and comedy. Now his oddball legacy is finally collected in one indispensable box set! Feast your eyes on his first feature, the madcap Glen or Glenda? in which Eddie himself portrays a transvestite struggling with his addiction to angora while Bela Lugosi offers inscrutable narration. Blackmail, outlaws on the run, and plastic surgery collide in the surreal crime drama Jail Bait, featuring a young Steve Reeves (Hercules), while Bela returns to create the Bride of the Monster in a heady collision of atomic experiments, a rampaging octopus and clumsy assistant Lobo (played by wrestler Tor Johnson). Wood's indisputable disasterpiece, Plan 9 from Outer Space, offers pie-plate flying saucers, incompetent alien leaders, all-seeing psychic Criswell, goth favorite Vampira and a post-mortem appearance by Lugosi himself in his last film role. Then Lobo and a phony spiritualist usher in a Night of the Ghouls at a spooky marsh filled with shuffling undead and wailing ghosts. Finally, learn all about the man himself with The Haunted World of Ed Wood, a comprehensive disc packed with interviews, film clips, TV rarities and much more! It's enough to make you scream!

 
Ed Wood Tribute Double Feature: On The Trail of Ed Wood / Gypsy Vampire - Final Bloodlust
Ed Wood Tribute Double Feature: On The Trail of Ed Wood / Gypsy Vampire - Final Bloodlust

On The Trail Of Ed Wood (1990, Color and BW): This behind-the-scenes look at cult director Edward D. Wood, Jr. is hosted by Conrad Brooks, who appeared in all six of the films Wood wrote and directed. Brooks presents this amazing true story with never before seen photos, tours of the homes that Ed Wood lived in and the studios where he filmed his infamous opuses of sex and horror. Film clips and the original theatrical trailers embellish this in-depth look at a most unusual personality. Hosted by Conrad Brooks; Produced by Buddy Barnett; Directed by Michael Copner.Gypsy Vampire: The Final Bloodlust (2005, Color): Posing as a funeral director, one-eyed vampire Count Lugo arises from the grave to initiate yet another wild orgy of blood. Starring Conrad Brooks and Bruce "Porkchop" Lindsay; Written, produced and directed by Conrad Brooks.

 
Ed Wood [VHS]
Ed Wood [VHS]

Ed Wood [VHS] (1994)

Johnny Depp (Actor), Martin Landau (Actor), Tim Burton . One of the years funniest movies.

 
Santa Fe Edge (Ed Eagle Novel)
Santa Fe Edge (Ed Eagle Novel)

Lawyer Ed Eagle returns-and so does his past. Santa Fe attorney Ed Eagle has recovered from his encounters with Mexican organized crime and his ex-wife, Barbara-who's much more dangerous. Now a mysterious new client has come his way, one who may shed light into some dark corners of Ed's past...and put him in danger once more.

 

Amazon Spotlight - PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE!

 

Amazon Spotlight - Ed Wood in his own words...

 

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    • JALowe LM profile image

      JALowe LM 3 years ago

      I wrote a lens about Ed Wood recently that may interest you. It adresses the idea of him as the worst director of all time and attempts to dispell that idea to a certain extent.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      I'd love to see the movie they made about him. Seems like it would be pretty odd...

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