Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 116: The Harl Foltz Files

Let's figure out who Harl Foltz was.

Is Ed Wood's Jail Bait (1954) a particularly well-lit movie? Eh, by the standards of low-budget 1950s crime movies, it's roughly adequate. Having screened many B-grade flicks over my lifetime, I can definitely say I've seen much worse than this. For the most part, the viewer can actually discern what's happening onscreen. That alone puts Jail Bait ahead of many other independent features of the era. I can't honestly say that the lighting enhances the viewing experience in any noticeable way, however, apart from a few suitably moody shots.

Steve Reeves and Dolores Fuller in Jail Bait. Notice the lighting.

What I can say is that Jail Bait is the first of Ed Wood's movies to give a specific onscreen credit for lighting. In this case, the lighting is attributed to a man named Harl Foltz with no other known film or TV credits. Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992) doesn't mention him at all. So who was this fellow? I thought I'd use the historical records to construct a timeline of Mr. Foltz's life.

April 16, 1894: Harl Earl Foltz is born in Kellerton, Iowa. According to an index of births and christenings, his parents are Earl Foltz and Mary Jackson.

1900: The United States Federal Census states that Harl, age 6, is living with his family in Porter, Indiana. Earl G. Foltz, the head of the household, was born in Missouri in February 1869 and is now 31 years old. His own parents were both from Ohio. His wife, Mary M. Foltz, was born in Iowa in 1872. She is now 27 years old and has been married to Earl for 10 years. Her parents were both from Indiana.

Stand up and be counted: The Foltz family in the 1900 census.

Earl and Mary have had three children, but only two are now living. Their daughter Leola is 8, and their son Harl is 6. Leola and Harl were both born in Iowa. Earl, Leola, and Harl are all attending school. Mary has no listed occupation. All members of the family can speak, read, and write English, and they live in a rented house.

September 5, 1901: The Leon Journal, a newspaper in Leon, Iowa, runs an item about the Foltz family in its "Purely Personal" section. The brief article states: "Mrs. Emma Daniels returned to her home at Kellerton yesterday after visiting a few days in this city with her sister, Mrs. E.G. Foltz. Harl Foltz accompanied her home." Sounds like a fun trip.

A boyhood trip for Harl Foltz.

1905: The Iowa State Census declares that the Foltzes are living in the city of Wayne in the county of Humeston. The family consists of Earl G. Foltz, Mary M. Foltz, Leola Foltz, and Harl E. Foltz. Harl is now 11 years old. There are a few further Foltzes listed in the same 1905 Iowa census: E.K. Foltz, Cora B. Foltz, and Dorothy L. Foltz. 

1910: Time for another United States Federal Census. The Foltzes are now living in Spokane, Washington. The family consists of: father Earl G. Foltz (age 41), mother Mary M. Foltz (age 37), and two children, son Harl (age 16), and daughter Lavarre (age 3). Leola Foltz is no longer living with the family. The baby, Lavarre, was born in Washington. Earl works as a pharmacist, while Harl is a salesman at a grocery store. He's the only one in the household still attending school. Again, Mary has no listed occupation.

February 20, 1915: A Minnesota newspaper called The Anaconda Standard reports in its society column that "Harl Foltz, who has been making a tour of the southern part of the country, was in Deer Lodge Thursday on a visit to Mr. and Mrs. E.K. Foltz while en route to his former home in Spokane."

Harl makes the society page.

1916: Looks like Harl decided to stay in Spokane a while. The Spokane City Directory lists Harl E. Foltz as a clerk at Spokane Drug Co. No wife is listed. He lives with his parents, Earl G. and Mary M. Foltz, at 4314 N. Madison. Earl G. is also a clerk at Spokane Drug.

September 30, 1916: H.E. Foltz, age 22, marries Marjorie H. Murray in Kootenai, Idaho. The Family History Library (FHL) film number for this union is 1548239.

1917: The Spokane City Directory states that Harl E. Foltz and his wife Marjorie H. Foltz are living at 823 E. Augusta. Harl still works as a clerk at Spokane Drug Co. 

The Foltzes in the 1917 Spokane City Directory.

June 5, 1917: Harl's World War I draft registration card gives his age as 23. He is living at 937 E. Augusta Avenue in Spokane, Washington. He works as a drug clerk at Spokane Drug Co. He is married and lists his wife as a dependent, though he does not claim exemption from the draft. The registrar's report describes him as a short man with a medium build, brown hair, and blue eyes.

Harl's WWI draft card.

September 15, 1917: The Spokane Chronicle reports that Harl Earl Foltz, living at 937 W. Augusta, has been rejected for the draft due to being "physically deficient."

January 2, 1918: The Spokesman-Review, another Spokane paper, reports that Harl Earl Foltz has been given a military exemption due to having a dependent family.

1920: The US Federal Census states that Harl E. Foltz, age 25, is still living in Spokane and working as a shipping clerk in the hardware industry. His wife is Marjorie H. Foltz, age 26. They have two small children, both born in Washington. Their son, Murray H. Foltz, is two years and three months old. Their daughter, Charlotte M. Foltz, is 10 months old.

The birth records from the Washington State Department of Health confirm that Harl E. Foltz and Marjorie H. Murray have at least one daughter, Charlotte Marie Foltz.

The 1920 Spokane City Directory says that Harl and Marjorie are living 4509 N. Whitehouse. Harl is employed as a shipping clerk at the E.W. Murray Lighting Company. Harl's parents, Earl and Mary, are living at 1122 W. Providence. Earl is still a clerk at Spokane Drug Company.

(left) The Spokane Chronicle, 1921; (right) The 1920 Spokane City Directory.

January 6, 1921: The Spokane Chronicle reports that Harl E. Foltz, a salesman for the Murray Lighting Company sold a five-room bungalow at 2123 W. Carlisle Ave. to Dr. Fred B. Nather for $3500. The property, which features "a full cement basement, furnace, improved grounds and a garage," had only been on the market for an hour and a half.  

1922: Harl E. Foltz and his wife Marjorie H. Foltz are again included in the Spokane City Directory. Their address is 2121 N. Hamilton. Harl's occupation is salesman.

February 8, 1925: According to the California Birth, Marriage & Death Records, Harl E. Foltz marries a woman named Blanche Wood in Los Angeles. This is the only record of the union that I could find. This is also the first documentation of Harl living in California. His Spokane days are done, and he has seemingly ditched his previous family.

They said it wouldn't last... and it didn't.

1930: The California voting records state that Harl E. Foltz is a registered Republican and a salesman, living at 1316 I St. in Sacramento. Harl changed party affiliations sometime between 1930 and 1932.

1932: For the first time, Harl is listed as a registered Democrat in the Index to Register of Voters, Los Angeles City Precinct No. 247. His address is given as 454 E. 42nd St.

1933: Harl Foltz and his wife Pearl are included in the San Diego City Directory. Harl is described as a clerk at a business called D.E. Kayer. Harl and Pearl's address is 4081 Georgia. This is the first mention of Pearl, but she and Harl will be married until Harl's death.

1936: The Index to Register of Voters, Los Angeles City Precinct No. 1549 states that Harl Foltz is a registered Democrat and salesman living at 1137 Gordon St. His wife, Mrs. Pearl G. Foltz, also resides at 1137 Gordon St. and is described as a housewife.

1937: The Los Angeles City Directory says that Harl and Pearl are still living at 1137 Gordon, but Harl's occupation is now listed as gardener.

1938: The Index to Register of Voters, Los Angeles City Precinct No. 1549 states that Harl Foltz is a registered Democrat and salesman living at 1137 Gordon St. His wife, Mrs. Pearl G. Foltz, also resides at 1137 Gordon St. and is described as a housewife.

That same year, the Los Angeles City Directory confirms that Harl and Pearl are living at 1137 Gordon and that Harl is a salesman.

1940: The Index to Register of Voters, Los Angeles City Precinct No. 1549 states that Harl Foltz is a registered Democrat and electrician living at 1137 Gordon St. His wife, Mrs. Pearl G. Foltz, also resides at 1137 Gordon St. and is yet again described as a housewife. So Harl switched from being a salesman to being an electrician sometime between 1938 and 1940.

1940: The US Federal Census states that Harl is 45 years old and living with his wife and two children in Los Angeles. Harl works as an electrician in the field of motion picture production. His salary is given as "1899." His wife, Pearl G., is 40 and was born in Illinois. Their children -- son Neil M., age 7, and daughter Marlene L., age 6 -- were both born in California.

1942: The California voter registration rolls say that Harl E. Foltz is an electrician and a registered Democrat, living at 1066 N. St. Andrews Pl. 

1942: Harl's World War II draft registration card states that he is 48 years old and living at 1066 North St. Andrews Place in Los Angeles. He is now employed by Universal Pictures in the electrical department and lives in Universal City. His next of kin is his sister, Mrs. LaVarre Miller. He now lists his place of birth as Ringgold County, Iowa. (Kellerton is in Ringgold.) It seems likely that Eddie and Harl met at Universal.

Harl's WWII draft card.

1946: According to the Index to Register of Voters, Los Angeles City Precinct No. 1716,  Harl and Pearl Foltz are both registered Democrats living at 1066 N. St. Andrews Pl.

1948: According to the Index to Register of Voters, Los Angeles City Precinct No. 1731, Harl and Pearl Foltz are both registered Democrats living at 1133 N. Lodi Pl. The Foltzes must've moved from St. Andrews to N. Lodi sometime between 1946 and 1948.

1950: Harl E. Foltz is again registered as a Democrat in Los Angeles County, as is his wife, Mrs. Pearl G. Foltz. They both live at 1133 N. Lodi Pl.

1952: Harl E. Foltz is still registered as a Democrat in Los Angeles County, as is his wife, Mrs. Pearl G. Foltz. They both live at 1133 N. Lodi Pl.

1954: Harl Foltz does the lighting for Edward D. Wood, Jr's film Jail Bait. He will be dead mere months after the film's release on May 12, 1954.

July 24, 1954: Harl Foltz dies at age 60 of unknown causes. His Social Security number is listed in the California Death Index as 560-06-6371. His parents' surnames are given as Foltz and Jackson, respectively.

July 26, 1954: A funeral notice for Harl runs in The Los Angeles Evening Citizen News, a Hollywood paper. It says: "Harl E. Foltz. Beloved husband of Marlene and Neil Foltz, son of Earl G. Foltz, brother of Leola Allen and La Varre Miller. Services 10 a.m. Wednesday at Pierce Brothers Hollywood, 5959 Santa Monica Boulevard. Internment: Valhalla Memorial Park."

Harl Earl Foltz was indeed buried at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood. His headstone reads: "Beloved Husband and Father." 

The grave of Harl E. Foltz.

July 27, 1954: The Mirror News, a Los Angeles paper, runs a brief article with the headline "Last Rites Held for Harl E. Foltz." The article reads: "Last rites for Harl E. Foltz, 60, were held today at Pierce Bros. Hollywood chapel, followed by burial in Valhalla Memorial Park. Foltz lived at 1133 N. Lodi Place. He died Saturday, leaving his wife Pearl; a daughter, Marlene; a son, Neil; his father, Earl Foltz, and two sisters, Mrs. Leola Allen and Mrs. LaVarre Miller."

None of the articles mentions Harl's first wife Marjorie, nor his daughter Charlotte and son Murray.

August 4, 1954: A Social Security claim is made for Harl E. Foltz, presumably by Pearl. His SSN is given as 560-07-6371, one number off from what is listed in the California Death Index.

February 29, 1956: The Los Angeles Evening Citizen News announces the engagement of Harl's daughter, Marlene, to Phillip Lloyd Walling. Both are students at UCLA.

August 27, 1956: The Los Angeles Evening Citizen News runs a marriage announcement for Harl's daughter, Marlene. The elaborate article includes a photograph and describes Marlene's college career at UCLA.

Harl's daughter gets married!

1960: Pearl Foltz, Harl's widow, is listed as residing at 621 N. Los Robles Ave., Apt. 5 in the Pasadena, CA City Directory.

1962: Pearl, still listed as Harl's widow, lives at 3526 Park Blvd., Apt. 5A, in San Diego, according to the San Diego City Directory.


CONCLUSIONS: Why would I do an article like this? What's so special about Harl Earl Foltz, other than the fact that he worked on one mostly forgotten Ed Wood movie in 1954? I honestly don't know. Maybe nothing whatsoever. But the fact that he did work on that movie caught my attention. Maybe it was that name of his. I've never met a Harl yet. (And, yes, that's his full name. It's not short for Harland.)

Universal City in the 1940s.
While I was researching the cast and crew of Jail Bait for a previous article, I noticed that Harl Foltz left an unusually long paper trail. Unlike most of Eddie's associates, who seem to exist in some kind of shadow zone, this man led an exceptionally well-documented life. Almost too well-documented! I think I wanted to see if I could make any sense of all that data and find some pattern in it.

What I see is that Harl, for better or worse, was a man on the move all his life. He and his family moved around a bit when he was a child -- first Iowa, then Indiana, then back to Iowa, and finally out to Washington, halfway across the country.  His extensive travel in 1915 shows that his restlessness continued into his young adulthood. By the early 1920s, though, Harl was seemingly tied down in Spokane. He had a wife and a kid. He seemed to be doing okay professionally. Maybe his story was over.

But Harl Foltz wasn't satisfied with that. Somewhere around age 30, he apparently ditched his first wife and married a second one... and then a third! He kept hopping from city to city and profession to profession, until he finally found the one that suited him, i.e. working as an electrician in the motion picture industry. He even landed a job with one of the major studios, Universal. Though his name didn't appear in the credits of any motion pictures, he must have worked on dozens of them over the years.

Eventually, Harl's job at Universal put him into contact with one of filmdom's great eccentrics, Edward D. Wood, Jr. And it was Eddie who gave Harl his one screen credit, lighting a cheaply-made crime thriller. That credit came just in the nick of time, too; Harl died right after the film came out. I wonder if he even got to attend a screening? I hope so.

What killed Harl in 1954? Who can say? But my guess is that he died of a heart attack, having pushed himself so hard for so long. I know very little of the man's personality. His headstone calls him "beloved," but that doesn't mean much. Just about everyone in a cemetery is beloved. I'm sure his first wife, Marjorie, would render a different verdict, as would Charlotte and Murray, his children from that union.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this look back at the life of Harl Foltz -- not a devil, not a saint, but just a man, with all the faults and failings that entails. 

P.S. The only other lighting credit I can find in an Ed Wood movie is for John Murray in Night of the Ghouls (1959). John was at the beginning of his career when he worked with Ed Wood, but he had a nice, long career as a gaffer, best boy, and electrician. His credits include Bachelor Party (1984), The Howling (1981), The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), and A Boy and His Dog (1975).