“I like to wear women's clothing. Panties, brassieres, pumps, sweaters... it's just something I do. Wearing their clothes makes me feel closer to them, know what I'm saying?”
Edward Davis "Ed" Wood, Jr. (October 10, 1924 – December 10, 1978) was an American director of such classic moving pictures (or "walkies") as Glen or Glenda, Jailbait, Bride of the Monster, and Plan 9 from Outer Space. He is considered by many to be the greatest interpreter of film and mise-en-scène, and left his mark on the film industry the same way those two hunters in Bride of the Monster left their mark on the woods on their way to the haunted Willows House. He was also a known cross-dresser; you think we're joking but we're not.
Wood was created in 1924 in good ol' Poughkeepsie, New York. His father, Timothy Burtoni, was a scientist and part-time magician; his mother, Lillian Wood, was a fashion designer of Romanian descent. At a young age, Ed's mom would forcibly dress him up in girly clothing, such as dresses, skirts, stockings, lingerie, bikinis, angora sweaters, pajamas, and gloves, because she had always wanted a daughter. Little Ed was traumatized, horrified, and sickened... but curious; it is often theorized that this is why he grew up to become a totally heterosexual cross-dressing transylvanian.
In his childhood, Wood was interested in the performing arts and pulp fiction. He collected comics and pulp magazines, and adored movies, most notably Westerns, serials and anything involving witchcraft, much to the dismay of his fundamentalist parents. Buck Rogers and Nosferatu were two of his earliest childhood idols. 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, Ed received as a gift his first movie camera, a Kodak knock-off called "Cine Special". One of his first pieces of footage, and one that imbued him with pride, showed the airship Hindenburg exploding right over his backyard. Ed's first paid job was being a cinema usher, where he also sang in a barbershop quartet called The Dapper Eds that greeted patrons in the theater.
At the age of 18, Ed was given a Kodak movie camera, but was drafted into the marines before he could put it to much use. He was assigned as a Corporal, serving alongside PFCs Coleman Francis and Jerry Warren. He fought in many battles of World War II, including the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Battle of Tarawa, Pearl Harbor, and the Skirmish of Solaronite, and came home with a chest full'o'medals. Reportedly, Wood was less afraid of dying in battle than he was of wearing male undergarments.
After the war, Wood joined the circus to appear as a sideshow freak, where his act consisted of eating living trees. Presumably because this wasn't freaky enough, he later became a secondary transvestite, dressing up as a woman first, quickly followed by dressing up as a man once again. The circus audience loved this act so much that his stardom rose to incredible heights, and so did his wood.
The next logical step for Eddy was to make a career in showbiz, so he packed his bags and moved to the movie stars, swimming pools, and fancy cars of Hollywood, California. There, he became a writer and director of television pilots, scientific commercials, and softcore westerns such as Crossroads of Laredo, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
In 1952, Wood met actor Béla "The Count" Lugosi in a café on the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Sesame St.. After lunch and a brief chat, Lugosi introduced Wood to acclaimed producer Alex Gordon, who offered Wood a million dollar contract to direct, write, and produce seven feature films. Wood immediately accepted the offer, and asked The Count to star in his movies, to which he agreed. Sadly, Lugosi was killed in a bicycling accident in 1956; Wood, who already shot some scenes with Lugosi that very morning, subsequently hired an obvious stand-in to complete filming of his sci-fi magnum opus Plan 9 from Outer Space.
In his films, Wood intercutted stock footage and used cheap special effects (i.e. paper UFOs, cardboard tombstones, rubber giant squids) to give them a more avant-garde feel. He would also often employ the same group of actors and actresses in his films, Lugosi being among them. He was often surrounded by vampires, including Vampira, Blacula, and Nosferatu, who is best known for his role in Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Wood sadly went for broke and had to leave his passions of sci-fi and horror behind. He instead resorted to making cheap pornos and writing romance novels, which were unsuccessful and, surprisingly for porn, not as entertaining as his older movies.
Death and legacy
“Ed was everything I aspired to be. He was cinema's finest. And now he's gone. May he rest in peace.”
In 1978, Wood was filming a movie about rabid dogs in his bedroom when all of a sudden, the trained pack of Shitzus attacked him and his crew. He yelled out to his wife "Kathy, HELP!", a plea Kathy ignored as she was tired of Ed bossing her around. After hearing no movement from the bedroom for twenty minutes, Kathy sent a friend to check on Wood, who discovered him and his crew's chewed-up corpses. A funeral was held in a Stucky's parking lot, attended by ten people. Since then, Wood's ghost has been spotted on numerous occasions at a video store, checking out the "Tommy Wiseau" isle. Wood's ghost states he will visit Uwe Boll, a director who was inspired by him on his birthday to help him make a Bio-Dome prequel.
In 1980, Wood was posthumously awarded a Golden Goose Award by Michael and Harry Meved for Best Director of All-Time, renewing public interest in his work. His sense of camp value and avant-garde storytelling earned him a cult of obsessive fans. Following the publication of Rudolph Rein-Grey's 1992 oral biography Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., Wood's life and work underwent a public rehabilitation of sorts. This led to the creation of 1994's Ed Wood, a typically gothic Tim Burton flick starring Johnny Depp as Wood that chronicled the earnest filmmaker's life. It earned two Flying Saucer Awards and a cult following, despite a meager box office performance, and is considered one of the best damn movies ever.