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Ed Wood

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Ed Wood

Ed Wood
Born Edward Davis Wood, Jr.
(1924-10-10)October 10, 1924
Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.
Died December 10, 1978(1978-12-10) (aged 54)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Other names Daniel Davis
Occupation Screenwriter, film director, film producer, actor, author, and editor
Years active 1947–1978
Spouse(s) Norma McCarty (m. 1955–56)
Kathleen O'Hara (m. 1959–78)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1942–46

World War II:

Edward Davis "Ed" Wood, Jr. (October 10, 1924 — December 10, 1978) was an American screenwriter, director, producer, actor, author and film editor.

In the 1950s, Wood made a number of low-budget science fiction, horror and cowboy genre films, intercutting stock footage. In the 1960s and 1970s, he made sexploitation movies and wrote over 80 pulp crime, horror and sex novels. In 1980, he was posthumously awarded a Golden Turkey Award as Worst Director of All Time, renewing public interest in his work.[1] Wood's career and camp approach has earned him and his films a cult following.

Following the publication of Rudolph Grey's biography Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992), Wood's life and work have undergone a public rehabilitation of sorts, leading up to director Tim Burton's biopic of Wood's life, Ed Wood (1994), a critically acclaimed film which starred Johnny Depp as Wood and earned two Academy Awards.

Early years

Wood's father, Edward Sr., worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a custodian, and his family relocated numerous times around the United States. Eventually, they settled in Poughkeepsie, New York, where Ed Wood, Jr. was born. According to Wood's second wife, Kathy O'Hara, Wood's mother Lillian would dress him in girl's clothing when he was a child because she had always wanted a daughter.[2] For the rest of his life, Wood was a heterosexual crossdresser.[3][4]

During his childhood, Wood was interested in the performing arts and pulp fiction. He collected comics and pulp magazines, and adored movies, most notably Westerns and anything involving the occult. He would often skip school in favor of watching pictures at the local movie theater, where stills from the day's movie would often be thrown in the trash by theater staff, allowing Wood to salvage them to add to his extensive collection.

On his 12th birthday, in 1936, Wood received as a gift his first movie camera, a Kodak "Cine Special". One of his first pieces of footage, and one that imbued him with pride, showed the airship Hindenburg passing over the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, shortly before its famous fiery demise at Lakehurst, New Jersey. One of Wood's first paid jobs was as a cinema usher, and he also sang and played drums in a band. He later fronted a singing quartet called "Eddie Wood's Little Splinters", having learned to play a variety of string instruments.

Military service

In 1942, Wood enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, just months after the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Assigned to the 6th and 7th Defense Battalions, he reached the rank of Corporal before he was discharged. He was involved in the Battle of Tarawa, among others, and during the war, he lost his two front teeth to a Japanese soldier's rifle butt and was shot several times in the leg by a machine gunner. Wood later claimed that he feared being wounded in battle more than he feared being killed because he wore a bra and panties under his uniform.[5][6]


Directing and screenwriting

In 1947, Wood moved to Hollywood, California, where he wrote scripts and directed television pilots, commercials and several forgotten micro-budget westerns with names such as Crossroads of Laredo and Crossroad Avenger: The Legend of the Tucson Kid.

In 1948, Wood wrote, produced, directed, and starred in Casual Company,[7] a play derived from his unpublished novel,[8] which was based on his service in the United States Marine Corps. It opened at the Village Playhouse to negative reviews on October 25.

In 1952, Wood was introduced to actor Bela Lugosi by friend and fellow writer-producer Alex Gordon, Wood's roommate at the time, who went on to help create American International Pictures. Lugosi's son, Bela Lugosi, Jr., has been among those who felt Wood exploited the senior Lugosi's stardom, taking advantage of the fading actor when he could not refuse any work,[9] while most documents and interviews with other Wood associates in Nightmare of Ecstasy suggest that Wood and Lugosi were genuine friends and that Wood helped Lugosi through the worst days of his depression and addiction. Lugosi had become dependent on morphine as a way of controlling his debilitating sciatica over the years.

Glen or Glenda

In 1953, Wood wrote and directed the exploitative semi-documentary LGBT issues at a time when most media were very hostile.

Jail Bait

In 1954, Wood directed and produced a crime film, Jail Bait (originally titled The Hidden Face), along with co-writer Alex Gordon, which starred Lyle Talbot and Steve Reeves. Bela Lugosi was supposed to play the lead role of the plastic surgeon, but was busy when filming started and had to bow out.

Bride of the Monster

In 1955, Wood produced and directed the horror film Bride of the Monster (originally titled Bride of the Atom), based on an original story idea by Alex Gordon which he entitled The Atomic Monster.[10] It starred Bela Lugosi, Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson and Loretta King.

Following the making of this film, Lugosi turned himself in to the state hospital for treatment for his drug addiction.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

In 1956, Wood produced, wrote and directed the science-fiction film Plan 9 from Outer Space (originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space), which starred Lugosi (in his final film), Tor Johnson, Vampira (Maila Nurmi), Tom Mason (who doubled for Lugosi in several scenes) and Criswell as the narrator. The film was premiered at a small screening in 1957, was released theatrically in 1959, and was sold to late night television in 1961, thereby finding an audience.

The Violent Years

In 1956, Wood wrote and produced the exploitation film Playboy model Jean Moorhead.

Night of the Ghouls

In 1958, Wood wrote, produced and directed Night of the Ghouls (originally titled Revenge of the Dead), starring Tor Johnson, Criswell, Valda Hansen and Kenne Duncan. The film was only released (marginally) in March 1959, and then promptly vanished from sight for nearly three decades, when it was resurrected on home video.

The Sinister Urge

In 1960, Wood wrote and directed the exploitation film The Sinister Urge (originally titled Racket Queen), starring Kenne Duncan, Duke Moore and Carl Anthony. Filmed in five days, this is the last mainstream film Wood directed, although it has grindhouse elements. Ironically, his career would soon spiral downward into a blur of "smut racket" nudie flicks, softcore pornography and end with X-rated novels and films. The scenes of teenagers at a pizza place were shot in 1956 for the unfinished juvenile delinquency film Rock and Roll Hell (a.k.a. Hellborn). This includes a fight scene performed by Ed Wood himself (uncredited) and Conrad Brooks.

Orgy of the Dead

In 1963, Wood wrote the screenplay for Shotgun Wedding, an exploitation film about hillbillies marrying child brides, and Wood's transitional film, once again combining two genres, horror and grindhouse skin-flick, was 1965's Stephen C. Apostolof directed under the pseudonym A. C. Stephen. The film begins with a re-creation of the opening scene from the then-unreleased Night of the Ghouls. Criswell, wearing one of Lugosi's old capes, rises from his coffin to deliver an introduction taken almost word-for-word from the previous film. Set in a misty graveyard, the Lord of the Dead (Criswell) and his sexy consort, the Black Ghoul (a Vampira look-alike), preside over a series of macabre performances by topless dancers from beyond the grave (recruited by Wood from local strip clubs). Together, Wood and Apostolof went on to make a string of sexploitation films up to 1977. Wood co-wrote the screenplays and occasionally acted. Venus Flytrap (1970), a US/Japan horror film, was based on an unproduced Wood screenplay from the 1950s.[11]

Books and novels

Beginning in the early 1960s, Wood wrote at least eighty lurid crime and sex novels in addition to hundreds of short stories and non-fiction pieces for magazines. Thirty-two stories known to be by Wood (he sometimes wrote under pseudonyms such as "Ann Gora") are collected in Blood Splatters Quickly published by Take It Out in Trade (1970), The Only House in Town (1970), with Uschi Digard, Necromania (1971), The Undergraduate (1972), A Study of Fetishes and Fantasies (1973) and Fugitive Girls (1974). (In Nightmare of Ecstasy, Maila Nurmi declined Wood's offer to do a nude scene sitting up in a coffin for Necromania.)[12]

In 1965, Wood wrote the quasi-memoir Hollywood Rat Race, which was eventually published in 1998. In it, Wood advises new writers to "just keep on writing. Even if your story gets worse, you'll get better", and also recounts tales of dubious authenticity, such as how he and Bela Lugosi entered the world of nightclub cabaret.

Personal life

Relationships and marriages

Wood had a long-term relationship with actress and songwriter Dolores Fuller, whom he met in late 1952. The two lived together for a time and Wood cast Fuller in three of his films: Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait and Bride of the Monster. Fuller later said she initially had no idea that Wood was a crossdresser and was mortified when she saw Wood dressed as a woman in Glen or Glenda. The couple broke up in 1955 after Wood cast another actress in the lead role of Bride of the Monster (Wood originally wrote the part for Fuller) and because of Wood's excessive drinking.[13]

While making Bride of the Monster in 1955, Wood married Norma McCarty. McCarty appeared as Edie, a stewardess in Plan 9 from Outer Space.[14] The marriage was later annulled when McCarty discovered that Wood was a crossdresser.

Wood married his second wife, Kathy O'Hara, in 1959. They remained married until Wood's death in 1978.


In Wood's 1992 biography Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., Wood's wife Kathy recalls that Wood told her that his mother dressed him in girl's clothing as a child.[2] Kathy stated that Wood's transvestism was not a sexual inclination, but rather a neomaternal comfort derived mainly from angora fabric (angora is featured in many of Wood's films, and Ann Gora also happened to be one of Wood's pen names) . Even in his later years, Wood was not shy about going out in public dressed in drag as Shirley, his alter ego—female character (who also appeared in many of his screenplays and stories).[15]

Later career

In 1969, Wood appeared in The Photographer (aka Love Feast or Pretty Models All in a Row), the first of two films produced by a Marine buddy, Joseph F. Robertson, portraying a photographer using his position to engage in sexual antics with models. He had a smaller role in Robertson's second film, Mrs. Stone's Thing, as a transvestite who spends his time at a party trying on lingerie in a bedroom.

In 1970, Wood made his own pornographic film,


By 1978, Wood's depression had worsened, and with it a serious drinking problem. He and Kathy were evicted from their Hollywood apartment on Yucca Street on Thursday December 7, 1978. The couple moved into the North Hollywood apartment of their friend actor Peter Coe. Wood spent the weekend drinking [16]

Wood was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at sea.[17] Wood's wife Kathy died on June 26, 2006, having never remarried.[18]

Legacy and homages

In 1986, in an essay paying homage to Wood in Incredibly Strange Films, Jim Morton wrote: "Eccentric and individualistic, Edward D. Wood, Jr. was a man born to film. Lesser men, if forced to make movies under the conditions Wood faced, would have thrown up their hands in defeat."[19]

In 1994, director Tim Burton released the biopic Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp in the title role and Martin Landau, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi. It also won an Academy Award for Best Makeup for Rick Baker. The film received mass critical acclaim, but did poorly at the box office. It has since developed a cult following.

In 1996, Reverend Steve Galindo of Seminole, Oklahoma, created a legally recognized religion with Wood as its official savior.[20] Originally founded as a joke, the Church of Ed Wood now boasts over 3,500 baptized followers. Woodites, as Steve's followers are called, celebrate Woodmas on October 10, which is Ed's birthday. Numerous parties and concerts are held worldwide to celebrate Woodmas. On October 4[21]–5, 2003,[22] horror host Mr. Lobo was canonized as the "Patron Saint of late night movie hosts and insomniacs" in the Church of Ed Wood.[21][22]

In 1997, the University of Southern California began holding an annual Ed Wood Film Festival, in which student teams are challenged to write, film and edit an Ed Wood-inspired short film based on a preassigned theme. Past themes have included Rebel Without a Bra (2004), What's That in Your Pocket? (2005), and Slippery When Wet (2006).[23]

In popular culture

In the early 1990s, three of Wood's films (Bride of the Monster, The Violent Years, and The Sinister Urge) were featured on the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, which gave those works wider exposure. Producers of MST3K considered including Plan 9, but found it had too much dialogue for the show's format.

In 1998, Wood's previously unfilmed script I Woke Up Early the Day I Died was finally produced, starring Billy Zane and Christina Ricci, with appearances by Tippi Hedren, Bud Cort, Sandra Bernhard, Karen Black, John Ritter and many others. Outside of a brief New York theatrical engagement, the film did not receive a commercial release in the United States, and was only available on video in Germany due to contractual difficulties.

In 2001, horror film director and heavy metal musician Rob Zombie released The Sinister Urge, which is named after Wood's film.

In 2002, American horror-punk supergroup Murderdolls released the album Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls, which features the single "Dead in Hollywood" which makes a reference to Wood with the lyrics, "You can knock on Ed Wood, but it won't do you no good/Cause all of my heroes are dead in hollywood."

In 2005, the Plan 9 cast were lampooned in an episode of the television series, Deadly Cinema; the following year, clips of this episode were featured in the documentary, Vampira: The Movie.[24]

In 2006, MST3K head writer and host Michael J. Nelson recorded an audio commentary track for a DVD release of a colorized version of Plan 9 from Outer Space.[25] In 2009, Nelson and fellow MST3K alums Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett mocked Plan 9 again in their very first RiffTrax Live event, coinciding with the film's 50th anniversary.

In 2012, director John Johnson announced plans to film a remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space.


  • Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion, was released in 1992. This exhaustive two-hour documentary by Mark Carducci chronicles the making of Plan 9 from Outer Space and features interviews with Maila Nurmi (Vampira), Paul Marco, Conrad Brooks, et al. In 2000, Image Entertainment included the documentary on the DVD reissue of Plan 9 from Outer Space (in a two-disc set with Robot Monster).
  • Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora, released in 1994 by Rhino Home Video, is a one-hour documentary on Wood's life and films. This includes rare outtakes and interviews with Dolores Fuller, Kathy Wood, Stephen Apostolof, and Conrad Brooks. Gary Owens narrates; Ted Newsom wrote and directed.
  • The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr., written and directed by Brett Thompson, came out in 1995. This documentary about the life and films of Ed Wood features interviews with Wood's friends and co-workers and closely resembles Wood's own style, albeit with slightly better miniatures.
  • The Incredibly Strange Film Show presented by Jonathan Ross.

Lost films

Wood's 1972 film The Undergraduate is considered to be a lost film, as was his 1970 film Take It Out in Trade, until a full 80 minute print was publicly exhibited at Anthology Film Archives in New York City in September 2014.[26] In addition, outtakes from Take It Out in Trade, without sound, were released by Something Weird Video. Wood's 1971 film Necromania was believed lost for years until an edited version resurfaced at a yard sale in 1992, followed by a complete unedited print in 2001. A complete print of the previously lost Wood pornographic film The Young Marrieds was discovered in 2004 and released by Alpha Blue Archives in 2014.



Glen or
Jail Bait Bride of
the Monster
Plan 9 from
Outer Space
Night of
the Ghouls
Take It Out
in Trade
Crossroads of
Carl Anthony
Conrad Brooks
Kenne Duncan
Harvey B. Dunn
Timothy Farrell
Dolores Fuller
Tor Johnson
Tom Keene
Bela Lugosi
Dudley Manlove
Paul Marco
Tom Mason
Duke Moore
Bud Osborne
Lyle Talbot
Ed Wood


See also


  1. ^ Harry and Michael Medved. The Golden Turkey Awards, 1980, Putnam, ISBN 0-399-50463-X.
  2. ^ a b Grey, Rudolph (1994). Nightmare Of Ecstasy: The Life and Art Of Edward D. Wood, Jr. Feral House. p. 16.  
  3. ^ Benshoff, Harry M. (1997). Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Film. Manchester University Press. p. 157.  
  4. ^ Weaver, Tom, ed. (2004). It Came From Horrorwood: Interviews With Moviemakers In The Science Fiction And Horror Tradition. McFarland. p. 358.  
  5. ^ Hoberman, J.; Rosenbaum, Jonathan (2009). Midnight Movies. Basic Books. p. 265.  
  6. ^ Grey 1994 p.20
  7. ^ Edward D. Wood Jr. – Films as director and screenwriter:, Films as screenwriter:
  8. ^ pp. 20–21 Hayes, David C. & Davis, Hayden Muddled Mind: The Complete Works of Edward D. Wood Jr 2006 Lulu
  9. ^ The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood, Jr., dir. Brett Thompson, 1996
  10. ^ "Alex Gordon". Retrieved November 9, 2013. 
  11. ^ IMDB entry
  12. ^ Grey 1994 p.135
  13. ^ McLellan, Dennis (May 11, 2011). "Dolores Fuller dies at 88; actress dated director Ed Wood". Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  14. ^ Craig, Rob. Ed Wood, Mad Genius: A Critical Study of the Films. McFarland. p. 149.  
  15. ^ Craig 2009 p.108
  16. ^ Ford, Luke (1999). A History of X: 100 Years of Sex in Film. Prometheus Books. p. 81.  
  17. ^ Grey 1994 p.160
  18. ^ "Kathy Wood". Variety. July 16, 2006. Retrieved September 25, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Ed Wood, Jr." by Jim Morton, Incredibly Strange Films, Re/Search Publications, San Francisco 1986, page 158
  20. ^ "Oh My God?: God Is the Producer of Our Lives But We Are the Directors". Huffpost Entertainment. November 18, 2009. 
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^ a b Reverend Steve Galindo (December 23, 2003). "Lesson 19: The First Saints of Woodism". Church of Ed Wood. Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Cast of Vampira: The Movie". Retrieved November 9, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Plan 9 from Outer Space: In Color (with Mike Nelson Commentary) : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved November 9, 2013. 
  26. ^


  • Rudolph Grey, Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., Feral House, 1992, ISBN 978-0-922915-04-0; reprinted 1994, ISBN 978-0-922915-24-8
  • Rob Conway, Ed Wood, Mad Genius: A Critical Study of the Films, McFarland, 2009, ISBN 978-0-7864-3955-3

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