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Edward D. Wood Jr. Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (7) | Trivia (16) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 10 October 1924Poughkeepsie, New York, USA
Date of Death 10 December 1978North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart failure)
Birth NameEdward Davis Wood Jr.
Nicknames Eddie
The World's Worst Director
Woody
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Hacks are nothing new in Hollywood. Had Edward D. Wood been born a decade or so earlier it's easy to imagine him working out of some Poverty Row outfit in Gower Gulch, competing with the likes of Victor Adamson, Robert J. Horner and Dwain Esper for the title of all-time hack. He would've fit in nicely at Educational Pictures in the early '30s or PRC in the following decade. Wood, like everyone, is imprisoned in their own time, and in the 1950s Edward D. Wood Jr. simply had no competition. He was ignored throughout a spectacularly unsuccessful career and died a penniless alcoholic, only to be "rediscovered" when promoters in the early 1980s tagged him the worst director of all time (mostly thanks to the Medveds' hilarious book, "Golden Turkey Awards")- and was given the singular honor of a full-length biopic by Tim Burton. This post-mortem fame has made him infinitely more famous today than he ever was when alive.

On a personal level, Wood was exceedingly complex. He was born on October 10, 1924 in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he lived most of his childhood. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1943 World War II and was, by all accounts, an exemplary soldier, wounded in ferocious combat in the Pacific theater in WW II. Conversely, he claimed to have been wearing a bra and panties under his uniform during a military landing. He was habitually optimistic, even in the face of the bleak realities that would later consume him. His personality bonded him with a small clique of outcasts that eked out life on the far edges of the Hollywood fringe.

After settling in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, Wood attempted to break into the film industry, initially without success, but in 1952 finally landed the chance to direct a film based on the real-life Christine Jorgensen sex-change story, then a hot topic. The result, Glen or Glenda (1953), gave a fascinating insight into Wood's own personality and shed light on his transvestism (an almost unthinkable subject for an early 1950s mainstream feature). Although devoutly heterosexual, Wood was an enthusiastic cross-dresser, with a particular fondness for angora. On the debit side, though, the film revealed an almost complete lack of talent that would mar all his subsequent films, his tendency to resort to stock footage of lightning during dramatic moments, laughable set design, and a near-incomprehensible performance by Bela Lugosi as a mad doctor whose presence is never adequately explained. The film deservedly flopped miserably but Wood, always upbeat, pressed ahead.

Wood's main problem was he saw himself as a producer-writer-director. Friends described him as an oddball hack who was far more interested in the work required in cobbling a project together than ever learning the craft of film making or in any type of realism. In an alternate universe, Wood might have been a competent producer had he had better industry connections and hired a competent director. Wood, however, likened himself to his idol, Orson Welles, and became a triple threat: bad producer, poor screenwriter and God-awful director. All of his films exhibit illogical continuity, bizarre narratives and give the distinct impression that a director's job was simply to expose the least amount of film possible due to constant budget constraints. Visible wires connected to pie-pan UFOs, actors knocking over cardboard "headstones", cars changing models and years during chase sequences, scenes exhibiting a disturbing lack of handgun safety, and the ingenious use of shower curtains in rudder-less airplane cockpits are just a few of the trademarks of an Edward D. Wood Jr. production. When criticized for their innumerable flaws, he'd cheerfully explain his interpretation of the suspension of disbelief. It's not so much that he made movies so badly without regard to realism, the amazing part is that he managed to get them made at all.

His subsequent film with Lugosi, Bride of the Monster (1955) was no better (unbelievably, it somehow managed to earn a small profit during it's original release, undoubtedly more of a testament to how cheaply it was produced than as entertainment), and Wood only shot a few seconds of silent footage of Lugosi (doped and dazed, wandering around the front yard of his house) for his next film, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) before the actor died in 1956. What few reviews the film received were awful. Typically undaunted, Wood based his magnum opus, Plan 9 around this limited material and microscopic budget, casting it with his regular band of mostly inept actors. Given the level of dialog, budget and Wood's dismal directorial abilities, it's unlikely that better actors would have been an improvement - in fact, it's "Plan 9"'s semi-official status as arguably the 'Worst Film Ever Made' that gives it its substantial cult following. The film, financed by a local Baptist congregation led by Wood's landlord, reaches a plateau of gross ineptitude that leaves viewers stunned. Plan 9 became his singular enduring legacy. Ironically, the rights to the film were retained by the church and it is unlikely that Wood ever received a dime from it; his epic bombed upon its first release in 1959 and remained largely forgotten for years to come.

After this career "peak," Wood went into decline (using relative terms). Always a enthusiastic drinker, his alcohol addiction worsened in the 1960's over his depression of not achieving the world-wide fame he always wanted for himself. Wood directed undistinguished soft and later hardcore pornography under the name "Akdov Telmig" (it helps to imagine you're a boozy dyslexic), and writing a number of transvestite-themed pornographic paperbacks into the 1970's. His final years were spent largely drunk in his apartment and occasionally being rolled stumbling out of a local liquor store. Wood and his wife, Kathy, were evicted from their Hollywood apartment due to failing to pay rent and moved into a friend's apartment shortly before his premature death on the afternoon of December 10, 1978 at 54. He had a heart attack and died while drinking in bed.

Due to his recent resurgence in popularity, many of his equally bizarre transvestite-themed sex novels have been republished. The gravitational pull of Planet Angora remains quite strong.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jack Backstreet

Spouse (2)

Kathy Wood (11 March 1956 - 10 December 1978) (his death)
Norma McCarty (7 October 1955 - 1956) (annulled)

Trade Mark (7)

Sci-fi and horror films.
Cheap visual effects
Poor production values
Frequently casts Conrad Brooks, Duke Moore, Bela Lugosi, himself, Timothy Farrell, & Tor Johnson in his films.
Known for being a crossdresser
All of his films have idiosyncratic dialogue.
Use of archive footage which has little or nothing to do with the movie's plot

Trivia (16)

At the time of his death, the industry newspaper, Variety, failed to run his obituary.
A surviving non-fiction manuscript, supposedly written by Wood, about working in Hollywood was published as "Hollywood Rat Race" in December 1998.
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.
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 four months later.
Upon returning to the US following WWII, he briefly attended Northwestern University in Chicago before joining a travelling carnival (he started out as the Geek, biting the heads off of live chickens, before becoming the Half Man, Half Woman).
Enlisted in the US Marine Corps in May of 1942. His claims to wearing women's underwear beneath his uniform in battle never seemed 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 fierce in combat. 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 shot by an enemy machine-gun in his legs, which 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.
Is portrayed by Johnny Depp in Ed Wood (1994)
Three of his films have been lampooned on the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988): 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.
One of his regular cast members was Lyle Talbot, who also played Commissioner Gordon in one of the first Batman serials. The biopic of Ed Wood was directed by Tim Burton, who also directed two Batman films.
Executor of B-picture actor Kenne Duncan's estate. Duncan and Wood were good friends and longtime drinking buddies. Wood held Duncan's wake (a BYOB event) at the pool of his apartment building and invited guests to give their recollections of his friend on the diving board.
Noted actor George Zucco, whose career had hit the skids and who was trying to recover from a recent stroke, approached Wood about working for him in 1953. Zucco literally begged him for work, but Wood had nothing in the casting stage at the time.
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 addiction to pain killers). Wood habitually paid off everyone, cast and crew, in cash. In the last few years of his life, this habit led to him being robbed while stumbling out of liquor stores in the seedy neighborhood he lived in.
Profiled in Tom Weaver's book "It Came from Weaver Five" (McFarland & Co., 1996).
The AKA Akdov Telmig was used for one film only, and that name read backwards denotes the mood in which One Million AC/DC (1969) was filmed: Vodka Gimlet.
Had a daughter named Kathleen Emily Wood.

Personal Quotes (2)

One is always considered mad when one perfects something that others cannot grasp.
If you want to know me, see Glen or Glenda (1953). That's me, that's my story, no question. But [Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)] is my pride and joy.

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