|Comedy legend Lenny Bruce glowers in Dance Hall Racket.
|Young Lenny in the Navy.
Born in Poughkeepsie, NY, just two hours north of Lenny's birthplace in Long Island, Edward Davis Wood, Jr. likewise dropped out of high school and joined the military in 1941. He, too, served at sea, across the Pacific. Despite his personal mythmaking that he was a war hero, unlike Lenny, Ed never went to battle. Also unlike Lenny, he was an actual transvestite.
East Coast boys sharing a yen to perform and entertain and "be somebody," Ed Wood and Lenny Bruce were both born in mid-October, albeit a year apart. Ed was born on October 10, 1924, and Lenny on October 13, 1925. After the war, their ambitions led both men to Hollywood, and in 1953, both would land at Quality Studios, a facility run by W. Merle Connell.
With offices across the street, producer George Weiss often utilized the sets at Quality, as well as tapping Connell's filmmaking ability. While these partners focused upon burlesque shorts, they also made features. Released through Weiss' company Screen Classics, Test Tube Babies (1948) was among the first, featuring actor Timothy Farrell as the empathetic but firm Dr. Wright, who counsels poor, sterile George Bennett (William Thomason) about artificial insemination. Glen or Glenda (1953), written by, directed, and starring Ed Wood, includes interiors shot at Quality and was produced by George Weiss and released by Screen Classics. Its cast again features Timothy Farrell, this time as a very similar character named Dr. Alton.
Later in 1953, George Weiss hired Lenny Bruce to write the screenplay for the feature Dance Hall Racket. Interiors were shot at Quality, with Timothy Farrell playing ultra-scumbag Umberto Scalli, a role he played in two other Screen Classics productions. Lenny portrays his strongarm (not like Scalli needs one), the psychotic Vincent. And just as Ed cast his significant other Dolores Fuller in the key role of Barbara in Glen or Glenda, Lenny's wife Honey is featured in Dance Hall Racket. Even Lenny's mom, dancer Sally Marr, makes an appearance. It's also worth noting that Dance Hall Racket was directed by Phil Tucker of Robot Monster (1953) infamy, the only serious contender to Ed's station as the supposed worst filmmaker of all time.
|(from l to r) Lenny Bruce, the sailboat painting, and Timothy Farrell.
While Lenny would garner fame as a boundary-pushing stand-up comedian, he paid the ultimate price and overdosed on narcotics at the age of 40 in 1966, outlived by even Elvis. Ed Wood, himself an addict to alcohol, would toil away invisibly in West and North Hollywood for more than a decade before greeting his future. Eddie managed to make it to 54.
As an avid fan of pop culture, Ed must have been familiar with the TV show M*A*S*H (1972-1983). Not only was it a big hit at a time when a big hit meant everyone was aware of it, but the show's subject matter was war. And, of course, there was the character of Corporal Klinger (played by Jamie Farr), one of the first transvestite characters on mainstream TV. Word on the street is that the character of Klinger was based upon a real guy: Lenny Bruce.