Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Collaborator Odyssey, Part 11 by Greg Dziawer

By 1955, Bela Lugosi was getting by with a little help from his friends.
his week,
I've decided to keep the Ed-itorializing largely to myself.  Instead, through an assortment of vintage news clippings, I'd like to offer a snapshot of a pivotal month in the saga of Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi. These events unfolded in the spring of 1955. In April of that year, the 72-year-old Lugosi was famously hospitalized for drug addiction not long after shooting the silent test footage that Ed would later insert into Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Meanwhile, the release of Ed and Bela's previous film—then still called Bride of the Atom—was mere weeks away. Following Bela's hospitalization, the May '55 premiere of Atom immediately morphed into a benefit for the ailing, debt-plagued Hungarian actor. This upbeat article from the April 27, 1955 edition of The Lubbock Morning Avalanche details both the hospitalization and the "lavish" benefit gala. Note the mention of Bride producer/star Tony McCoy, who is said to have visited Lugosi in the hospital.

"A lavish Hollywood premiere is planned."

This celebrity gossip column from the May 21, 1955 edition of The Oakland Tribune is significantly less positive in its depiction of the Lugosi benefit, characterizing the evening's receipts as "pitifully low."

"Receipts were pitifully low."

This next piece, which mentions Bride's leading lady Loretta King, was penned by Edwin Schallert and appeared in May 30, 1955 edition of The Los Angeles Times. You may remember that Schallert, father of actor William Schallert, had previously written about Glen or Glenda back in 1953. According to Schallert, King was "active on TV" at the time.

"Miss King is active on TV."

Like Edwin Schallert, Aline Mosby had also written about Glen or Glenda back in 1953. In fact, Mosby wrote numerous articles through the years featuring various friends, associates, and collaborators of Edward D. Wood, Jr. Her syndicated article here, clipped from the April 25, 1955 edition of The El Paso Herald Post, is especially sad and poignant in its depiction of Bela Lugosi in his twilight years. The article paints the actor as a pathetic figure, dependent upon the charity of friends. The "cruel satire" Mosby mentions was The Bela Lugosi Revue at The Silver Slipper in Las Vegas the previous spring.

"A quiet, gentle man who got into horror movies by mistake."

One last clipping to share with you, this one from the May 11, 1955 edition of The Los Angeles Times. It, too, describes the Bride of the Atom premiere and the subsequent Bela Lugosi benefit. The article name checks both Ed Wood and Tony McCoy, as well as Paul Marco and Dolores Fuller.  It's also interesting to note Vampira's presence at the benefit showing, making this yet another entry on the timeline of Ed's association with the horror hostess.

"Vampira, escorted by Paul Marco."

EPILOGUE: Bela Lugosi died on August 16, 1956, not even a year and a half after this benefit in his honor. He was 73. The former site of the Gardens restaurant at 4311 Magnolia Ave. in Burbank is currently occupied by an establishment called Joe's Great American Bar & Grill. The Paramount Theatre, originally constructed in 1923, was closed in 1960 and demolished in 1961. At its former location at the intersection of 6th St. and Hill in Los Angeles, you'll now find a wholesale jewelry building constructed in the late 1970s.

The site of the Bela Lugosi benefit is now Joe's Great American Bar & Grill in Burbank, CA.