Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Young Marrieds Odyssey, Part Four by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood dedicated his final film to documenting the sex lives of the younger generation.

Ed Wood's last stand as a feature film director.
This week, I am again turning my attention to Ed Wood's last-known feature, a hardcore pornographic film from 1972 called The Young Marrieds. There's a lot to talk about here. For instance, I've already discussed the movie's various releases on home video as well as some of its Los Angeles filming locations. This time, however, it's the movie's very title that concerns me.

Every now and then, that rather odd turn of phrase—"young marrieds"—piques my curiosity and sends me on a search. This particular pairing of words remains sparsely used in the English lexicon, with most appearances clustered from the mid-1960s through the early '70s. It is quite uncommon today even to see "marrieds" used as a plural noun. But, half a century or so ago, the term "young marrieds" popped up in a fair number of newspaper articles and ads and was even used as the title of a 1961 novel by Judith Heiman.

Back then, the press identified young marrieds as a large and promising consumer base, marked by their increased likelihood of possessing college educations and their subsequently enhanced earning power. Having come of age during the postwar Populuxe era of the 1950s, these youngsters seemed poised to buy even more than their parents' generation had. The natural flip side to this acquisitiveness—and a theme commonly addressed in the popular literature of the time—is that young marrieds would accrue debt beyond their means. And so they did, but not before Ed Wood named a movie in their honor.

Never a man with great financial acumen, Ed typically throws socioeconomics to the wayside in The Young Marrieds, instead exploring the sexual hang-ups of the new generation, whose members were far better situated in those permissive times to explore their sexuality than their more conservative forebears. 

Judging by these 1960s clippings, "young marrieds" were the millennials of their day.

Title card from the ABC soap opera.
All of this is mere preamble to a surprising discovery I made only recently: from 1964 to 1966, ABC ran a black-and-white soap opera called (you guessed it!) The Young Marrieds. Depending on which source you believe, the series lasted either 380 or 382 half-hour episodes. I suspect this connection had already been made by other Woodologists but had somehow slipped past me, unnoticed or unreckoned, until just now.

Be that as it may, the now-forgotten show ran mostly in late morning time slots (plus a few afternoons) on ABC affiliates across the country. It was a spin-off, in fact, of the massively popular General Hospital, which still airs today as one of the last surviving soaps on network television.

The Young Marrieds took place in the fictional town of Queen's Point, a suburb of GH's mythical Port Charles. Still to this day on General Hospital, the occasional character hailing from Queen's Point will pass through Port Charles. Otherwise, once it was cancelled, The Young Marrieds seems to have entirely disappeared in the ether of the pop culture, never to be re-aired. The UCLA Film and Television Archives holds a mere seven episodes, likely all that remains of the series. When Ed Wood made a movie called The Young Marrieds in 1972, the ABC series of the same name would have been just barely visible in the nation's rear view mirror.

By 1973, however, this new generation of young marrieds was already beginning to decline as a sociological and economic force, their higher divorce rates and lower birth rates foiling the hopes of the corporations. The term would all but disappear from use by the mid-'70s, and those same corporations would adapt by learning to profit from debt, a proven business model as it remains sustainable to this day. 

It seems of little sociological significance, in retrospect, that an aging pornographer appropriated the term "young marrieds" for his final, ignoble feature. More telling, perhaps, the title could explain the crazy scene in Ed's movie in which frustrated housewife Ginny (Alice Friedland) masturbates while watching a soap opera in her living room. The fact that there really was a soap opera called The Young Marrieds makes this scene an irreverent inside joke. And, given this Wikipedia summary of the series, there seems to be yet another direct link between the TV show and the movie, since both feature characters with the surname Garrett. To wit:
The Young Marrieds focused on the conflicts between three married couples in the suburban community of Queen's Point. Dr. Dan Garrett and his wife Susan Garrett, commercial artist Walter Reynolds and his wife Ann Reynolds, and Matt Stevens and Liz Stevens, a young couple who were engaged and ready to begin their married life together. 

Featuring just a handful of actors whose names are still recognizable today—including Charles Grodin, Ted Knight and Lee MeriwetherThe Young Marrieds ended its abbreviated run on ABC with an unresolved cliffhanger. This is appropriate, since Ed's film, too, ends on a note of uncertainty. Namely, would-be suburban swinger Ben Garrett (Dick Burns, aka Louis Wolf) has to decide whether to engage in homosexual activity at an orgy or just walk away.

We'll never know Ben's ultimate decision. What's your guess?

P.S. This 1964 ABC promo reel includes some footage from The Young Marrieds. And keep an eye out for Ed Wood regular Timothy Farrell (Glen or Glenda, The Violent Years, Jail Bait), appearing on the likewise forgotten Day in Court

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Set Decoration Odyssey, Part Six by Greg Dziawer

A relic from the heyday of 1970s porn.

Prop of the week: a bronze statue.
When we examine the films Ed Wood worked on in some capacity during his final decade—plus the ones we think he might have worked on—we see how often they intersect through their set decorations. There are distinctive props, furnishings, and wall hangings that turn up again and again in these 1970s adult movies.

I've already covered several of these decorations previously. For instance, there are the Chinese guardian lions and the lion's head door knocker that show up in Necromania and The Young Marrieds, two feature films directed by Ed, as well as in numerous silent 8mm loops. Then there's the black velvet painting of a panther descending a stone staircase. And let's not forget the infamous gold and white skull

Some of these set decorations serve as signposts to the alert viewer that a particular movie was made at Hal Guthu's studio set on Santa Monica Blvd. That's not always a guarantee, though, that Ed Wood was involved. I've seen some films and loops that feature items from those sets but likely have nothing to do with Ed. However, the lion's share (no pun intended) of these set decorations strongly suggest that Ed Wood was involved in a production.

This week, I'm going to follow an item I first noticed in Necromania. I traced this item first to another one of Ed Wood's features and finally to a mysterious but intriguing loop.

Ed's feature film Necromania is rife with items that turn up in other movies. It was only recently, while watching the outtakes of Take It Out In Trade, that an item from Necromania I had not spotted previously caught my eye. In Necromania, when Danny (Ric Lutze) and Shirley (Rene Bond) enter Madame Heles' place at the outset of the story, there stands a small piece of bronze decorative statuary just inside the door, sitting on the floor in the lower right corner of the screen. It's a squat, bulbous thing maybe about a foot and a half high. In the Trade outtakes, during a shot of a travel poster, two such bronze statues appear in the bottom left and right corners of the screen, indicating they were a pair.

Bronze statues in (from left): Cafe Lust, Necromania, and Take It Out In Trade.

Mere days later, I was screening some 1970s adult loops, and—sure enough—there it was again. The loop in question, Café Lust, takes place on a cheap strip joint stage set. The cast consists of two gals and a guy. One of the aforementioned bronze statues sits atop a table in the corner of the set, just to the left of the stage. The stage itself uses a piece of zebra-striped fabric as a backdrop. I've seen this same fabric repurposed again and again in these movies: as a blanket, as a wall hanging, as decorative bric-a-brac, and even as a carpet! Café Lust gave me my best view yet of this faux zebra skin. Up close, it looks like it is indeed a carpet.

Café Lust is also fascinating in that it dates from the brief era when the porn industry was transitioning from softcore to hardcore, placing it circa 1970. (Meanwhile, the clapperboards visible in the outtakes from Take It Out In Trade indicate it was filmed in mid-January 1970.) Lust survives today, ID'ed as "White Box Productions #23." This is another example of a loop that was packaged anonymously in an effort to protect its makers. The filmmakers obviously took some other precautions. There are a few halfhearted attempts to block out genitalia with objects in the foreground, and an oral sex scene is clearly entirely faked, with the act itself obscured throughout by the actresses' hair.

Aesthetically, the sparse strip show stage in Café Lust makes the stage in The Young Marrieds look ornate by comparison. But that could be owing strictly to the lighting and we could be on the very same set. Also worth noting: the stripper's dance moves are extraordinarily similar to those of the stripper in The Young Marrieds.

The real question, as always, is: Was Ed Wood involved in this loop? The circumstantial evidence suggests that he was, but that's still just an inference. We're close, without a doubt, but there remains more work to do. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Preview Odyssey by Greg Dziawer

Plenty of time to get some popcorn at the refreshment stand.

Things are happening, folks. Exciting things that I can't wait to share with you.

I have a lot of upcoming articles in the works for Ed Wood Wednesdays. In fact, I have too many balls thrown in the air! As we wait for one to come down, I'd like to preview just some of the topics I'll be covering in the coming weeks and months.

  • Ed Wood's career in sponsored and industrial films has gone largely undocumented until now. In addition to discussing Eddie's work with Story-Ad Films in the late 1940s, I'll detail the nature of the closed circuit live television broadcasts that Ed listed on his resume, while working at Autonetics at the dawn of the '60s.
An article from the Poughkeepsie Journal, September 18, 1949.

  • I'll also be covering the distribution history of the final four films that Ed is known to have directed in the 1970s: Take It Out In Trade, The Only House in Town, Necromania, and The Young Marrieds. All four of these adult movies made the rounds before disappearing into decades-long obscurity. We'll find out where and when they played, and ID the films they were paired with. It's quite a wild story. The Young Marrieds, for instance, was astonishingly still playing in theaters into the early 1980s! But more on that to come.
An ad for Take It Out in Trade.

  • In addition, I'll take a closer look at a couple of vital figures from Ed Wood's past: Eddie's young brother Howard William Wood (who typically went by William) and his close friend from high school and beyond, George Keseg.
  • The unseen garage-cinema of Ed and Bela (1986) will finally get its due. Ahead of its time in more than ways than one, this biographical short film's interpretation of Bela Lugosi eerily anticipates Martin Landau's award-winning performance in Tim Burton's Hollywood biopic Ed Wood (1994).
  • If that isn't enough to get your attention, I'll also be attempting the most comprehensive index yet of Tor Johnson's wrestling matches.
Tor with hair, 1936.

All this and much more awaits you, true believer, right here at Ed Wood Wednesdays. Whatever you do, keep watching this space for updates!