Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 111: Where is Amzie Strickland in 'Glen or Glenda'?

Amzie Strickland may or may not have worked with Ed Wood.

Most long-time fans of Ed Wood have seen his debut feature Glen or Glenda (1953) dozens of times, perhaps even memorizing the dialogue. I've said on multiple occasions that this film is the Rosetta Stone for decoding most of Ed's later work, so it deserves to be studied by any serious Woodologist. But this seminal movie, clocking in at a mere 65 minutes, still has some secrets it's keeping from us all these decades later.

Amzie Strickland
Case in point: The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) listing for Glen or Glenda states that one Amzie Strickland (1919-2006) played an unspecified minor role in the film. This caught my attention because I recognized Amzie's name from my research for my weekly podcast These Days Are Ours. This prolific Oklahoma-born actress -- with a career in radio, TV, and film spanning more than six decades -- had played the Cunninghams' racist neighbor Mrs. Finley in a 1974 episode of Happy Days called "The Best Man." Somehow when we reviewed that episode back in December 2018, I failed to point out that she'd appeared in a Ed Wood movie. Shame on me.

A reliable character actress, Amzie started getting small, uncredited movie roles in the late 1930s, playing such memorable characters as Hotel Guest, Nightclub Patron, Churchgoer, and the unforgettable Girl at Table. That pretty much set the pace for her career. It wasn't the most glamorous work, but it was incredibly steady. I can find no significant gaps in her resume from 1937 to her retirement in 2001. Amzie was always there to play a maid, a receptionist, a salesclerk, a nosy neighbor, a schoolmarm, or whatever a producer might need. Along the way she appeared in iconic movies like Jezebel (1938), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Scarlet Street (1945), and The Women (1939). Not in big roles, mind you, but still, she's in them. Somewhere. She even got to be in an Abbott & Costello movie (1945's Abbott & Costello in Hollywood)!

In the 1940s, with her excellent diction, Amzie started getting roles on radio shows like The Romance of Helen Trent and Our Gal Sunday, eventually appearing in over 3,000 radio episodes. In the mid-1950s, she started booking TV gigs as well, and this was when she finally started getting onscreen credits. She was a regular on the rural sitcom Carter Country in the late '70s, but couch potatoes remember her best for her many fleeting TV guest roles. She turned up as multiple characters on both The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Andy Griffith Show, while also putting appearances on I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, ER, ALF, Roseanne, The Golden Girls, and too many more to count. And we haven't even gotten to her work in TV commercials! This gal did it all.

But where is she in Glen or Glenda, if anywhere? I immediately eliminated those female characters whose performers were already known: Barbara (Dolores Fuller), Miss Stevens (Shirley Speril), and Sheila (Evelyn Wood). I eliminated, too, the burlesque dancers in Glen's nightmare since there is no evidence to suggest Amzie Strickland ever worked in this milieu. (The closest she came was this was playing an uncredited Ziegfield Girl in a 1941 movie of the same name.) Nevertheless, there is still a sea of unidentified female characters in Glen or Glenda. Let's examine some possible candidates.

The lovely uncredited ladies of Glen or Glenda.

Okay, we have: Lady Who's Just an Ear, Sitting Office Worker, Judgmental Saleslady, Johnny's Ex-Wife, Modern Woman, Standing Office Worker, Sheila's Coworker, around eight different Nightmare Ladies, and Sex Change Nurse. Could any of these be stalwart character actress Amzie Strickland? Keep in mind that, although Amzie played a lot of little old ladies in her career, she was only in her early 30s when Glen or Glenda was made. Even though she was often typecast as a dowdy Plain Jane type, she also played harem girls, chorus girls, and party girls. Then again, with her extensive radio resume, it's possible she merely did voiceover work on Glenda, since there are many characters in the film who exist only as voices, e.g. the disgruntled wives in the divorce court sequence.

If I had to wager a guess, I'd say Amzie is probably Modern Woman, presumably married to Henry Bederski's schlubby, bald Modern Man. I think she's a little too young to be the department store clerk who sells Glen the sheer nightie, though this is the kind of role she'd ace later in her career. She might also be one of the many (non-burlesque) women in Glen's final nightmare, the one that convinces him to confess everything to Barbara. Or maybe Amzie Strickland isn't in Glen or Glenda at all, and someone has uploaded faulty information to the IMDb. Wouldn't be the first time.

What do you think?