Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays: Genesis—An Ed Wood Odyssey by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi costarred in Glen or Glenda (1953).

Columnist Scott Rivers wrote about Ed.
In the decade following Edward D Wood Jr's untimely passing on December 10, 1978, his status changed dramatically. The late writer-director morphed from a forgotten footnote in Hollywood history to an emblem of the cult movie movement. The view of Wood that took root during that decade still dominates his pop culture reputation today, for good or ill.

The publication of Michael and Harry Medved's snide Golden Turkey Awards in 1980 fueled it all, dubbing Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) the worst movie ever made and Ed Wood himself the worst director of all time. The book's success inspired numerous screenings of Ed's films, often at revival houses and college campuses. Soon after, Paramount's zany compilation movie It Came From Hollywood (1982) featured an entire segment about Wood hosted by famed comedians John Candy and Dan Aykroyd. While not a critical or box office hit, It Came aired ubiquitously on cable TV throughout the '80s. But it was the arrival of Ed's movies on VHS that made it all real, finally affording the general public a glimpse into Ed's work beyond Plan 9.

Throughout these crucial years, newspaper staffers regularly overviewed Ed Wood, trotting out a version of events that reads like deja vu regardless of authorship. The same basic tropes—Eddie's Grade-Z ineptitude, his "strange" cast of regulars, the "camp" fun of watching his films—appear again and again in these articles. The same notions and even verbiage are repeated ad nauseam, along with the same biographical details. The effect was twofold, painting Eddie as a character of derision, a naive fool at best and cynical hack at worst, and cementing a highly limited and oft-inaccurate version of his biography.

Here's a representative example I found while combing through old newspapers. It appeared in the February 9, 1988 edition of Salt Lake City's Daily Utah Chronicle. This particular article was written by Scott Rivers as part of his "Artwatch" column, but there are dozens more just like this from newspapers across the country.