Thursday, December 8, 2022

The 2022 Ed-Vent Calendar, Day 8: The most versatile office in movie history!

This seems like an office where a man could get things done... if he wanted to.

What do doctors do all day? Well, according to Ed Wood, they mainly wear nice suits, sit around in their offices all day (and night), and wait for trouble to come to them. It inevitably does.

The Coen brothers are rightly known for having a lot blustery authority figures behind heavy wooden desks in their movies. From Trey Wilson in Raising Arizona (1987) to David Huddleston in The Big Lebowski (1998), it's one of their favorite stock characters. I can scarcely think of a Coen film that doesn't have some version of this trope.

But Ed Wood liked to put a lot his authority figure characters behind desks, too. Think of Harvey B. Dunn as the slightly dotty, bird-loving Captain Robbins in Bride of the Monster (1955). In that film's quasi-sequel, Night of the Ghouls (1959), the role of Captain Robbins has shifted to Johnny Carpenter, but the dutiful policeman can still be seen parked behind his desk for a good portion of the movie, dully sending his men to what might well be their doom.

There's kind of a neat symmetry in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957), since both the top-ranking human (Lyle Talbot as General Roberts) and the top-ranking alien (Bunny Breckinridge as the Ruler) are confirmed desk jockeys. And, obviously, the movie is bookended by the ultimate desk-sitter: Criswell.

While doing research for one of these blog posts, I noticed that the office of Dr. Boris Gregor (Herbert Rawlinson) in Ed's seedy crime thriller Jail Bait (1954) looked strangely familiar.

Clancy Malone and Herbert Rawlinson in Jail Bait.

That's when I realized it was the same exact set used by Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell) in Wood's previous film, Glen or Glenda (1953).

Shirley Sperl and her then-husband Timothy Farrell in Glen or Glenda.

It's all there—the wallpaper, the wood paneling that only goes halfway up, the bookshelves, the desk. All Ed Wood did between Glenda and Jail Bait was move the other chair from the left side of the screen to the right. That's what you call growing as a filmmaker. By the way, I'd give my eye teeth to know the name of that painting in the upper left corner. Do you know what it is?