Wednesday, May 27, 2020

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

Ed Wood's 1971 film Necromania saw a lot of bookings in Hawaii.

Of the sex films helmed by Ed Wood in the last dire decade of his life, it is perhaps 1971's Necromania that is best-remembered. That wasn't always so. In fact, it was not until 1987 when the film was first attributed to Ed. A partial version of the film finally re-emerged on home video in 1994 from Something Weird. Though the movie itself was incomplete, that tape featured an introduction from Basket Case director Frank Henenlotter, who discussed the film with Wood biographer Rudolph Grey. A DVD containing the complete hardcore and softcore versions was released by Fleshbot Films a decade later.

But Necromania had a surprisingly long life in theaters, too. Newspaper ads for theatrical showings of the film indicate it was still making the rounds as late as 1982. In the previous decade, in both hardcore and softcore variants, Necromania regularly played in fleapits across the country, then no doubt just another bit of anonymous sex to satisfy the punters. And at least through Ed's passing in December 1978, he never saw a dime of the profits.

This week, we're sharing a clutch of advertisements promoting theatrical showings of Necromania in Honolulu. Yes, while Necromania played in all of the places you might expect—from Hollywood to Cleveland to Rochester—it cropped up in Honolulu at multiple theaters in late October of both 1972 and 1974, just in time for Halloween. There, it was screened at venues alongside Hong Kong kung-fu flicks and Japanese sword epics. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Podcast Tuesday: "Let's Get Physicals!"

Warren Berlinger (at right) bullies the Happy Days gang in "The Physical."

Appropriately enough, since Memorial Day was yesterday, our new episode of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast deals with a military-themed episode of the sitcom. Specifically, "The Physical" from February 22, 1977 has Richie, Fonzie, Ralph, and Potsie all reporting to an Army induction center for their physicals. Happy Days mostly plays these events for goofball comedy, with character actor Warren Berlinger appearing as the buffoonish Sgt. Betchler. (Watch how you pronounce his name!) But there's a serious side, too, as Richie's mother Marion worries about her boy being sent to die overseas in a war. Fortunately for the Happy Days gang, America was kind of between wars at the time.

Eventually on Happy Days, both Richie and Ralph would join the Army. (It was a convenient reason to write actors Ron Howard and Donny Most out of the show.) Fonz did, too, but only in one of the show's animated spinoffs, and I think the military let him keep his trademark pompadour and leather jacket. Only Potsie -- simple-minded, useless Potsie -- would forever remain a civilian.

I never got anywhere near the military, which is probably best for both me and the military. My dad served a few years in the Navy in the 1960s, but he enlisted because otherwise he'd have been drafted. The draft had been eliminated by the time I came along. I registered for Selective Service when I turned 18, naturally, but I never got closer than that. Sometimes I wonder, though, how my life would have been different. Maybe I would have been fragged.

Anyway, here's our newest show. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Podcast Tuesday: "The Naked Graduate"

Jason Wingreen guest stars on a 1977 episode of Happy Days.
I sympathize with all the kids across America who don't get to have a real graduation ceremony this year because of the pandemic. They may feel they're being denied an important milestone in their lives, and maybe they're right. Truthfully, though, I don't think they're missing out on anything too spectacular. My own high school graduation ceremony in May 1993 was a dull, hollow experience for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, my mother had died a few months earlier, so my family and I were still very much in mourning. I was only a middling student in those days, so I wasn't receiving any special accolades or awards. I remember sitting glumly through the monotonous ceremony, noting that the underachieving goofballs who had done as little schoolwork as possible were getting the exact same diploma I was getting. I felt like I'd been duped, like all those years of schooling -- all the book reports and pop quizzes and gym classes -- had been a colossal waste of time. When I graduated from college a few years later, I didn't even bother attending the ceremony.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, my co-host and I are covering the episode "Graduation (Part 2)" from February 15, 1977. As the title suggests, the show's plot centers around a high school graduation ceremony that's much more entertaining than my own. Mine definitely didn't feature guest appearances by Pat Morita, Dick Van Patten, and Jason (original voice of Boba Fett) Wingreen! And the whole thing moves by so quickly that you don't have a chance to become bored, depressed, or disenchanted. Have a listen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 101: "Casual Company: The Laugh of the Marines" (1948)

The Marines in Casual Company seem more interested in chasing babes than defending their country.

Did Ed Wood write for Street & Smith?
In the late 1940s, Ed Wood seemingly had no idea where his career was heading. Was it to be in theater? Movies? Television? Writing novels? He didn't know, so he tried all of those things without finding great success in any of them. The popular image of Ed is of the lifelong film fanatic who spent most of his childhood at the local cinema in Poughkeepsie, watching Westerns and Bela Lugosi pictures, and whose life was forever changed by the gift of a home movie camera from his father. There's a lot of truth in that. Movies were a long-time obsession for Ed Wood, and he stayed in the motion picture business as long as he could.

But Eddie seemingly had literary aspirations from an early age, too. In a 1978 interview with Fred Olen Ray, Ed claimed to have sold a story called The Sunset Murders to the New York publishing company Street & Smith, known for dime novels and pulp fiction, when he was only 12. In April 1946, on the precipice of his honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps, Ed Wood told his hometown paper, The Poughkeepsie Journal, that he was in the process of turning one of his unfinished plays, The Inconvenient Corpse, into a novel. He was fond enough of Corpse to mention it in his mid-1960s showbiz primer Hollywood Rat Race

Neither The Sunset Murders nor The Inconvenient Corpse has ever surfaced, and Eddie's prolific career as a published novelist didn't really begin until 1963's Killer in Drag (aka Black Lace Drag). One early Wood manuscript that did somehow survive, however, is 1948's Casual Company: The Laugh of the Marines. Seemingly based on a comedic play Ed wrote while he was still in the Marines, the novel was unpublished during his lifetime and was finally serialized in Cult Movies magazine in 1993 and 1994 in anticipation of Tim Burton's Ed Wood biopic.

Best described as a novella, Casual Company turns out to be a slight, slim book in which virtually nothing of consequence happens. It's an episodic work detailing the day-to-day lives of Marines in the somewhat drowsy days following World War II. The setting is the Casual Company office at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Beaumont, California. In military terminology, a "casual company" is defined as a holding unit for Marines awaiting discharge from the Corps, special training, or deployment to a unit. In other words, this is purgatory. The action -- or, more accurately, inaction -- of the book revolves around the five men who work in this stuffy office as they banter, argue, and play mild pranks on one another. How mild are the pranks? Their idea of a laugh riot is removing the aces from a deck of cards while one guy is out of the room, preventing him from winning at solitaire.

Since no scripts of the Casual Company play have yet emerged, and since newspaper accounts of the era don't describe the plot or characters in detail, it's difficult to say how closely the novel follows the theatrical version of this material. All we really have to go on are the vintage programs from various Casual Company performances. According to one such document, the characters in the play are: 1st Sgt. I.M.A. Hashmark, Capt. J. Sleepingwell Gutter, PFC Lemmey A. Dime, PFC Elbo Joints, PFC Jim Nastics, Maxine Anthony, PFC Greenberg, Private Pogybate, Corporal Anthony (this was a role Eddie played himself), Lieutenant Muscles, Ilene Sideways, Mary Widow, and WAVE Lois Slowly.

For the novel, Eddie toned down the silly, pun-filled names, but most of the characters listed above have obvious counterparts in the literary version of Casual Company. 1st Sgt. I.M.A. Hashmark, for instance, becomes First Sergeant Daniel "Hashmark" O'Hare, aka Top, an ill-tempered hothead who bellows orders at his underlings in the office but can be easily kowtowed by his wife. Top is also a habitual nose-picker, a habit Ed Wood mentions frequently. I kept imagining him as Sgt. Carter (Frank Sutton) of Gomer Pyle, USMC.

Frank Sutton as Sgt. Carter on Gomer Pyle, USMC.

Corporal Anthony, meanwhile, becomes Captain Robert Roberts, a do-nothing commanding officer who is far more concerned with hunting rabbits than in doing anything useful at the office. The captain, who has never once hit an actual rabbit, frequently goes on hunting expeditions in "the underbrush of the mountainous area behind the hospital zone." Accompanying him on these hopeless excursions is comely Lieutenant "Muscles" Morgan, so named because she's the "female athletic officer of the base." The lieutenant is running out of patience with the addle-brained captain, but he somehow sweet talks her into sticking around a little longer. Both Top and Roberts are staunch traditionalists, wary of any changes to the Corps.

In the novel, Roberts and Top are in charge of three wisecracking, duty-shirking reservists: PFC Jerome "Jerry" Carter, PFC Paul "Elbo" Bender, and Staff Sgt. Jim Armstrong. These men spend most of their time in the office reading mystery novels, napping, and talking about dames. Their main goal in life, other than taking long lunches, seems to be enraging the temperamental Top. They delight in second-guessing his orders and undermining his (minimal) authority. Occasionally, he gets revenge by making them stand at attention while listening to a recording of "The Marines' Hymn." It looks like, in the play, these three characters had slightly different names and were all PFCs, while in the book, one is a staff sergeant and occasionally pulls rank on the other two.

The most interesting passages in Casual Company occur when outsiders come into the office and disrupt the stultifying routine. In one such vignette, a sexy woman named Maxine Anderson asks Top if her husband, Corporal Anthony, can have more liberty. Top tells her he'll see what he can do. When the bemused corporal finally arrives at the office, he does so at the exact moment the three jokers, Jerry, Jim, and Elbo, are staging a farcical mini-mutiny against Top. The disgruntled first sergeant, eager to regain control, tells the corporal he can have plenty of extra liberty... since he's now been demoted to PFC. Because the Anthonys are both listed in the theatrical cast of characters, my guess is that this incident in the novel is taken directly from the play.

The Swedish humor of Yogi Yorgesson.
One of the oddest vignettes in Casual Company revolves around a stereotypical Swede named Yorgenson, who has deliberately scuffed up his pants in hopes of procuring new ones. Jerry, Jim, and Elbo take delight in sending Yorgenson from one desk to another and asking him ridiculous questions that have nothing to do with his request. Eventually, the Swede, who speaks with a comically thick accent a la 1940s comedian Yogi Yorgesson, emerges triumphant. I cannot see any obvious cognate of Yorgenson in the play, but it's possible that this character was drastically renamed.

In case you were wondering about Ilene Sideways, yes, she's in the novel, too. Here, however, her name is simply Ilene. She's described as a pretty young lady who works in the Ships Services, apparently some kind of commissary. She thinks Elbo is "wonderful," much to the annoyance of Top. What makes Ilene especially interesting is that she favors pink angora sweaters. "It was so soft and cuddly," she enthuses about a recent purchase, "and with this beautiful soft pink cover, it is all so feminine." Ed may have based Jerry, Jim, and Elbo on himself and his Marine pals, but Ilene may be his true avatar in this novel.

If there's any drama in Casual Company, it revolves around Jim, who is at the center of a love triangle.  He has a girl back home named Joan and a girl in town named Nadine. Taunted by his fellow Marines, Jim says that Joan and Nadine live thousands of miles apart and will never meet. And, besides, Nadine knows all about Joan. But Joan's letters to Jim remain unanswered, as if he doesn't know what to tell her. When Nadine and Jim are alone, she tells him she loves him, but he's not ready to say those words back to her. This is as close to serious as the novel gets, but the love triangle subplot is never resolved.

Overall, Casual Company: The Laugh of the Marines is a remarkably tame and unadventurous outing for Ed Wood. The tone is closer to Mort Walker's long-running military comic strip Beetle Bailey than it is to any of Eddie's later, wilder movies and stories. When Cult Movies divided this novel into four sections, it billed the final installment as "the exciting, thrill-packed conclusion of Casual Company," but the book's final chapters are just as laid-back as the ones that had preceded them. Other than the description of Ilene's angora sweater, the only time we get a glimpse of the future Ed Wood is when he describes an erotic encounter between Jim and Nadine:
Nadine caught his smile with hers the pressed his head to hers and their lips met. Jim started to slide around her waist again, but Nadine ushered his hand upwards, upwards to encircle her round, firm breasts which were heaving against the loose, white, off the shoulder blouse.
Pausing in the middle of a love scene to describe what the heroine is wearing? That's Ed Wood.

P.S. I've said it before, but the play called The Casual Company glimpsed in Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994) bears no resemblance to this material whatsoever. The only minor connection is that both are military-themed and set in the '40s. The play-within-a-biopic was written by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander and not based on the original Casual Company at all. Scott and Larry's play is an earnest (if ridiculous) drama and actually takes place during World War II in the thick of battle. Ed's Casual Company is a light comedy that takes place in America after the war.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Podcast Tuesday: "How I Learned to Start Worrying and Leave the Prom"

Dick Van Patten ruins the prom on Happy Days.

It's inevitable that viewers will bring their own personal baggage with them whenever they consume any kind of media. When we watch a TV show, for instance, we may ask ourselves how the experiences of the characters onscreen compare with our own experiences. Unfortunately, if there's a huge disconnect between what's onscreen and what we have experienced in real life, we may have trouble suspending our disbelief. Think of real-world cops or doctors watching prime time shows about their professions. The scripts may be so far removed from reality that these viewers will become alienated, unable to relate to what they're seeing.

I try not to be this way. I understand that TV is TV and life is life and never the twain shall meet. I don't expect sitcoms to be realistic. That's how I was able to watch and enjoy The Office, even though it was very much unlike any real office where I'd ever worked. I spent years toiling in cubicles -- first for an auto manufacturer in Flint, then for a market research company in Chicago -- and if anyone there had acted like the employees at Dunder-Mifflin, they would have been fired immediately and possibly led away in handcuffs. But what does it matter? This is just a television show. Its only purpose is to entertain. Why bring dreary reality into it?

Michael Scott: Like no boss I've ever had.
Recently, though, I had trouble accepting a major plot twist on an episode of Happy Days that I was reviewing for my podcast, These Days Are Ours.  Specifically, I was screening "Graduation (Part 1)" from February 8, 1977. The plot of this episode has Milwaukee teenager Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) attending his senior prom at Jefferson High School. Also in attendance are Richie's pals, Fonzie (Henry Winkler), Ralph (Donny Most), and Potsie (Anson Williams), and their respective dates. Things are going great until Vice Principal Conners (Dick Van Patten) shows up and announces that everyone in the senior class has flunked the hygiene exam. Students will not be allowed to graduate, he says, unless they pass a make-up exam scheduled for the morning after the prom. Everyone leaves the dance to go home and study.

This was more than I could take. It was too ridiculous even for Happy Days.

I mentioned earlier that I had worked a few office jobs, which is true. But between those Flint and Chicago assignments, I spent a few years teaching high school and junior high school. My parents were both teachers, too, and I'm the product of a public school education myself. Based on all this experience, I can say that this "hygiene exam" story could never, ever happen in real life. There would be too much of an uproar from the students, their parents, the faculty, and possibly even the local media. Vice Principal Conners would be (symbolically) strung up by his thumbs for this. He is, to paraphrase Dr. Strangelove, exceeding his authority.

Did this little snafu prevent me from enjoying the episode? You can find out by listening to Episode 79 of our show. And here, conveniently enough, it is:

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Podcast Tuesday: "Blanskymania!"

Nancy Walker and Tom Bosley on Happy Days.

Title screen for the ill-fated Blansky's Beauties.
In the early 1970s,  CBS ruled the prime time television ratings with one of the strongest lineups in the history of the medium. In retrospect, a real turning point for the company was All in the Family, an edgy, topical sitcom that appealed to a diverse audience. The network cannily turned that one hit show into a profitable franchise with a slew of spinoffs: Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons. Meanwhile, however, poor ABC lagged behind. Apart from occasional hits like Marcus Welby, MD, they didn't have much to compete with Archie Bunker and company.

Then came Happy Days. At first, ABC was slow to see the potential of this nostalgic family series. A pilot aired in 1972, but Happy Days didn't get a weekly spot on the network until 1974. Even then, Happy Days was a mere midseason replacement, taking the place of The All New Temperatures Rising Show, a forgotten Paul Lynde vehicle. In its second season, opposite Good Times, Happy Days tumbled badly in the ratings and came very close to cancellation. With some retooling, however, the show rebounded mightily in its third season and even got its own spinoff in the form of Laverne & Shirley. Soon, these two shows would be ruling the Nielsen ratings and dominating popular culture.

It's only natural that ABC wanted to see if lightning could strike thrice in the same place. In February 1977, Happy Days launched its second spinoff, Blansky's Beauties. This new show, again created and produced by Garry Marshall, centered around Nancy Blansky (Nancy Walker), the diminutive but sassy cousin of Happy Days patriarch Howard Cunningham (Tom Bosley). Nancy was the "entertainment director" of a large Las Vegas hotel called the Oasis. She mainly played den mother to a group of leggy showgirls, the "beauties" of the title.

Alas, Blansky's Beauties was a flop. Paired with Fish, itself a spinoff of Barney Miller, it simply could not compete with the powerhouse CBS Saturday lineup and was canceled after 13 painful episodes. This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we talk about what went wrong with Blansky's Beauties as we review "The Third Anniversary Show," the Happy Days episode that introduced the Nancy Blansky character. Join us, won't you?

Monday, May 4, 2020

Ed Wood Extra! "Exclusive Interview with Hollywood Director Edward D. Wood, Jr." by Baron Von Brenner (1973)

Baron Von Brenenr wrote abut Ed Wood in a 1973 issue of Psychic Review.

NOTE: Among Ed Wood's many eccentric acquaintances was Wendell John Brenner (1916-1975), aka Baron Von Brenner, a self-professed psychic and TV horror host who introduced Eddie to actor John Agar. Brenner also wrote a profile of Eddie for the July-August 1973 edition of Psychic Review. I am including the full text of that article below, trying to keep the spelling, grammar, and punctuation intact. Also included are the pictures that ran with the article, complete with the original photo captions. Brenner's article is a strange mixture of fact and fantasy, sometimes distorting the truth to a ridiculous extent. I hope you will enjoy it. - J.B.

Portrait of Director Ed D. Wood, Jr.
This particular photo of Mr. Wood was designed
by — and a favorite of — the late Bela Lugosi
A Saturday and Sunday matinee movie buff, just barely able to reach the ticket window with his dime, Edward D. Wood, Jr. knew at that early age in Poughkeepsie, New York that he was destined to be a part of the Hollywood scene. That he would some day be instrumental in bringing some of the most outstanding, well-loved and remembered personalities to the silver screen.

Throughout his "growing up" years, his military service in the United States Marines during World War II, this desire grew until he finally arrived in Hollywood in 1948. "Buck Jones was always my favorite of all Western Stars, but he died four years earlier and I never got to meet him," he sadly related, but there were many stars that he wanted to know and work with and the opportunity came before he knew it.

"The first big time actor I met was the famous comic, Franklin Pangborn, in a segment of the "MYRT AND MARGE SHOW" being filmed at the old Hal Roach studio. The series never got off the ground, but I later used Phyllis Coates, whom I met at the same time in "THE SUN WAS SETTING" with Angela Stevens and Tom Keene."

Angela Stevens, Tom Keene, Edw. Wood, Jr. and cameraman - Ray Flin on the set of "THE SUN WAS SETTING" written and directed by Edw. D. Wood, Jr.

Having both written and directed that film, Mr. Wood, Jr. went on to team Tom Keene with Tom Tyler in the color feature "CROSSROAD AVENGER" which also had the ever famous Lyle Talbot, Kenne Duncan, Bud Osborne, Don Nagel and Harvey B. Dunn.

"Only Don and Lyle are left of this group, Kenne having passed on just last year," he added.

With the blossoming of his amazing talent and creative genius, Eddie began to realize his boyhood dream come true.

Collaborating with Producer George Weiss for a film entitled, "I LED TWO LIVES", (later changed to "I CHANGED MY SEX"), he met the late Bela Lugosi.

"From then on we went strictly into the horror field and worked on five more films together, only to be concluded by the hand of Death that reached out and took Bela from us."

Cesar Romero and guests with Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Bill Thompson,cameraman, Director
Edward D. Wood, Jr. and Criswell on the
During this same period, Eddie met and became a very close friend of Tor Johnson and his family, and direct him in all of his films, which included the never-to-be-forgotten "BLACK SHEEP" with Tor and John Carradine, "REVENGE OF THE DEAD" which co-starred that famed Western villain, Kenne Duncan, and "PLAN #9 FROM OUTER SPACE" which also featured the world-famous and renowned predictor - Criswell.

"BRIDE OF THE MONSTER" was the film that first brought Tor Johnson to the screen as "Lobo". The makeup created for that character was done by the famous makeup man, Harry Thomas. It was used again in "REVENGE OF THE DEAD", which was the last feature film that Tor appeared in before his untimely death in 1971. 

"Tor is missed very much but his horror films are frequently seen on television, and will always keep him with us", said Eddie. "What's more, we are going late production on a new feature in the fall of this year... "THE THREE STAGES OF MAN" which will include Tor's son Karl Johnson, as well as featuring Criswell along with veteran actor Alan Baxter who made so many gangster films over the years. Also in a feature role will be John Carpenter, who now runs a free ride ranch for Handicapped Children."

Karl Johnson is not a newcomer to the screen, as he worked with his father, Tor Johnson, in several of his films. He resembles his Dad in stature and is also a very powerful person, having also been a professional wrestler. We hope that this will be the beginning of a new revival of Horror films, as we feel that they are an important part of the movie industry, and also have a place in our culture. And although I know he won't agree with me, Karl is sure to take over where his father left off on the screen.

Abounding with energy, at only 49, Edward D. Wood, Jr. has probably had one of the most rewarding and successful careers in Hollywood. I don't want to give the impression that it has come to an end. Quite the contrary. It seems to be just beginning. Having recently completed writing original stories and screenplays for such films as "ORGY OF THE DEAD", "CLASS REUNION", "THE SNOW BUNNIES", "DROP OUT WIFE", "THE COCKTAIL HOSTESSES", and most recently... "CONVICT GIRLS" which goes before the cameras at the end of the summer... all for the extremely talented producer, director, A.C. Stevens, Eddie has been busy.

John Agar, recently selected for starring role in
"CONVICT GIRLS", written by Edw. D. Wood, Jr., and
produced and directed by A.C. Stevens, will be-
gin filming sometime in the late summer months.
Watch for more pictures and information in future
issues of the PSYCHIC REVIEW.
Most recently, Eddie tells me, (another Scoop for the Psychic Review), they have selected the extremely handsome, talented John Agar to play the Male Lead in "Convict Girl". Mr. Agar has set a record for the number of science-fiction films he's stared in and has appeared with such great personalities as John Wayne, Wendell Corey, Henry Fonda and many others, in films as well as on television.

A brilliant, well-respected actor, John has thrilled millions of movie-goers around the world with his performances. By casting professionals like Mr. Agar, Mr. Stevens and Eddie are sure to have a box-office success. In my opinion, the movie-going public is tired of the nudity that seems to have taken over the industry.... it's time to bring back the kind of films that are entertaining, enlightening and that the entire family can go to see together.

This seems to be the direction that Eddie and Mr. Stevens are aiming toward and we would like to commend them for it. Hopefully, other film producers and directors will follow their fine example.

"THE CLASS REUNION" the original story and screen-play written by Eddie, is now under consideration for achievement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and he's beside himself with joy.

But he has not stopped with simply making films. He has more than 1,0000 short stories and articles published and has just finished his 101st novel. Somewhere in his superhuman busy schedule he finds time for his lovely wife, Kathy, and their three "children" a Tibetan Spaniel, Casey and two Corgies, Wheelie and Bumper-Sticker, (the later being named by Gov. Ronald Reagan of Calif. when Eddie was active in the campaign to elect Sam Yorty Mayor of Los Angeles in 1965).

He said of himself, "If I hadn't been as determined to making movies I probably would have been a Zookeeper. I love animals so"... and they love him  too. They sense when someone is sincere, and has a gentle nature.... and Eddie is all of that.

Our hats are off to Edward D. Wood, Jr., and we wish him continued success and good fortune in all that he desires... there's an Oscar there with his name on it somewhere, for he has shared his greatest gift with Mankind... himself.

The Premiere Stars at the San Fernando Theater for the film "REVENGE OF THE DEAD" (from left to right) Dudley Manlove of N.B.C., Allan Nixon,
Vampira, Tor Johnson, Stepin Fetchit, Bela Lugsosi, Jr., Paul Marco, and Dolores Fuller.


Wendell John Brenner
Much of what you just read could be generously described as hogwash. Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi did not make five films together. They barely made three. Ed certainly did not direct The Black Sheep (1956) with Tor Johnson, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney, Jr., and John Carradine. That was Austrian filmmaker Reginald Le Borg, who helmed dozens of low budget pictures in multiple genres from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s, when he switched to television. Revenge of the Dead (1959) was not Tor Johnson's last film appearance. If Convict Girl is another name for Fugitive Girls (1974), there was no male lead for John Agar to play. The Class Reunion (1972) would never have been an Oscar contender. Ed Wood and Steve Apostolof (A.C. Stephen) were certainly not making old-fashioned, family-friendly films. Their films relied very much on nudity.

Some of the article is either Brenner's opinion or is otherwise unverifiable, i.e. Eddie having "one of the most rewarding and successful careers in Hollywood." Who can say, meanwhile, whether or not Ronald Reagan named one of Ed's dogs Bumper-Sticker? Eddie certainly did work with Los Angeles mayor Sam Yorty, so it's possible he met or even knew Reagan. It's not impossible. Wood and Brenner were friends, so it's the latter's opinion that Eddie was "sincere and had a gentle nature." The sincerity I don't doubt, but alcoholism bought out some very un-gentle behavior from Ed Wood.

Several of Eddie's real-life projects are described (more or less) accurately, including The Sun Was Setting, Crossroad Avenger, Bride of the Monster, Revenge of the Dead, and I Changed My Sex. We also get a glimpse of one of Eddie's many unrealized projects, this time a film called The Three Stages of Man, with a projected cast of Karl Johnson, Alan Baxter, and Johnny Carpenter. The unmade film doesn't even get a mention in Rudoph Grey's book Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992). Unfortunately, Karl never did take over his father's place in the movie industry.

In a private Facebook forum devoted to Ed Wood, fans Angel Scott and Will Sloan speculated that The Three Stages of Man was the proposed 1973 anthology film based on Eddie's short stories. Ed got as far as writing a script and doing some preliminary casting for that project, so it came pretty close to getting made. What's more, the stories that would have been included in the film correspond neatly to three different stages of life. There's a story about youth ("Mice on a Cold Cellar Floor"), one about middle age ("To Kill a Saturday Night"), and one about old age ("Epitaph for the Village Drunk").

I'd never heard the story of Ed Wood meeting fey, fussy character actor Franklin Pangborn. Eddie claims that Pangborn was filming a "segment" of Myrt and Marge at Hal Roach's studio in Culver City. Myrt and Marge was a radio soap opera that ran from 1931 to 1946. From the context of Eddie's story, it seems like there was a failed attempt to turn it into a TV series during those very early days of the medium. There was a 1933 Myrt and Marge film adaptation, though it's best known for featuring Ted Healy and the Three Stooges. Incidentally, the radio show starred Mytle Vail (aka Myrtle Damerel), best known today for her "daffy old lady" roles in The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and A Bucket of Blood (1959), both written by her grandson, Charles B. Griffin.

Overall, what I like about this article by Baron Von Brenner is its can-do optimism and its naivete. This is the Eddie we know from the 1994 biopic Ed Wood, the guy who's convinced the rain is just about to stop and that his next picture is going to be a smash hit. By and large, this article isn't particularly accurate, but I wish it were. In a way, by winning two Academy Awards, Ed Wood did make one of Brenner's wilder predictions come true. It turns out that there were Oscars with Eddie's name written on them.

P.S. I've found a clearer, more detailed picture of the Revenge of the Dead premiere with Stepin Fetchit in attendance. In this picture, though, the gentlemen on the left are cropped out.

Allan Nixon, Vampira, Tor Johnson, Stepin Fetchit, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Paul Marco, and Dolores Fuller.