October 10th was the birthday of Ed Wood, Jr. – the quirky filmmaker frequently referred to as the worst director of all time. But that moniker really sells him short. He was also an awful writer, actor and producer. What he lacked in filmmaking acumen he more than made up for in confidence, focus and panache. So, here now – in honor of what would have been his 86th birthday – are 10 absurd facts about Ed Wood, Jr.:
- Wood had a now well-known penchant for cross-dressing. This affinity for female garb inspired one of his more famous films, Glen or Glenda. It’s believed that it was Wood’s mother that first introduced him to cross-dressing, because of her intense desire for a daughter.
- Wood joined the Army at a young age and claims to have been involved in the famous Battle of Guadalcanal – all while secretly wearing women’s undergarments beneath his Army uniform.
- As a young man, Wood joined a carnival, appearing in the freak show as the bearded lady.
- As a jack-of-all-trades of his own films, Wood billed himself under a number of different pseudonyms, including Ann Gora (in reference to Angora - his favorite female textile) and Akdov Telmig (The backwards form of his favorite drink, the vodka gimlet).
- His pride and joy, Plan 9 From Outer Space, is notoriously-awful – featuring a number of shoddy special effects and cinematography errors. Among them: flying saucers suspended on clearly-visible strings, scenes which bounce back and forth from day to night, and cardboard grave markers that sway back and forth. The most famous, however, is Wood’s decision to utilize footage of Bela Lugosi shot for another film. He didn’t let the fact that fact that Lugosi had recently passed away of a heart attack stop him, either. He simply recast the role – giving it to a family doctor that had never acted before and didn’t resemble Lugosi in any way. As a result, the replacement actor awkwardly held his cape in front of his face in each of his scenes.
- Plan 9 From Outer Space was originally titled Grave Robbers From Outer Space. However, Wood was forced to change the title by the Baptist Church that he’d convinced to bankroll the film.
- In 1959, Wood directed a follow-up to Plan 9 From Outer Space entitled Night of the Ghouls, but audiences didn’t see the film until 23 years later. The reason? A processing lab had the film and Wood could not afford to pay his bill to get the footage back.
- Wood was known to frequently prank his wife Kathleen by pretending to be dying. This ultimately came back to haunt him when he suffered a real heart attack on December 10, 1978 and allegedly yelled for his wife in the next room of their home for more than an hour. Kathleen, believing he was once again pulling a hoax, didn’t check on him for more than an hour. When she finally did, he was dead.
- Wood never enjoyed the fruits of the iconic, campy status he now holds in film history. The movement to revisit and discuss his mostly forgotten works began, in large part, a few years after his death when a book called The Golden Turkey Awards named him The Worst Director of All Time. The same book named Plan 9 From Outer Space as the Worst Film of All Time.
- In 1996, a Californian named Steve Galindo established The Church of Ed Wood. Although admittedly started as a joke, the religion is now a legally-recognized religious organization. Alas though, Galindo and his followers may be may be just as good at leading a faith as Wood was at leading a film set. A note of their website currently reads: “PLEASE HELP THE CHURCH OF ED WOOD!!! Reverend Steve and The Church of Ed Wood are having SEVERE financial difficulties and need YOUR help!”
Yesterday was October 10, 2010—10.10.10! To celebrate, we planned a bunch of 10 lists, and the mass listeria has spilled into 10.11.10. To see all the lists we've published so far, click here.