Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 21
Ed Wood October 10, 1924
Ed Wood born

The man widely considered the worst film director ever, Edward Davis Wood, Jr., was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on this day in 1924. Wood’s childhood was notable for two things: his great love of cinema, which made him play hooky from school in order to spend time getting a different kind of education at his local movie theater; and the fact that his mother, who had wanted a girl rather than a boy, often dressed Wood in girl’s clothes, apparently until he was 12. At 17, Wood joined the Marines, and was most likely the only soldier who fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal wearing women’s underwear beneath his combat gear. After the war, he became a carnival worker, playing the freak as well as the bearded lady (which allowed him to crossdress and wear fake breasts). Wood is now celebrated, in a mostly ironic manner, for the films he directed in the 1950s, particularly the cross-dressing drama Glen or Glenda and sci-fi movie Plan 9 From Outer Space, in which bountiful enthusiasm failed to distract from the low production values, terrible acting and writing, lack of continuity, etc. Wood’s career was boosted by his use of an ailing Béla Lugosi in his movies, however after Lugosi’s death in 1956 Wood’s movies now lacked star power, as well as any other redeeming qualities. He made a few (mostly pornographic) films after Plan 9, and instead made money working as a screenwriter on exploitation movies and writing pornographic novels and magazine stories. After his death in 1978, he was known only as a figure of ridicule, but his reputation was boosted in the early 1990s due to Rudolph Grey's biography Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992) and Tim Burton’s loving biopic Ed Wood, in which Johnny Depp played the eponymous lead.


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Working Girl Dec. 21, 1988
Working Girl Opens

With Carly Simon's anthemic "Let the River Run" scoring Melanie Griffith's Monday-morning commute from Staten Island to Wall Street, Mike Nichols' Working Girl, which opened December 21, 1988, is an upbeat fantasia celebrating female empowerment, class mobility, and the underlying soundness of our financial system.

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December 21, 1988
Working Girl, a fable of money

Just days before Christmas, director Mike Nichols delivered Working Girl, a new brightly wrapped present of the American dream. If Oliver Stone’s 1987 Wall Street showed the greed and cruelty behind that fueled America’s financial professionals, Nichols' Working Girl gave that same capitalist dream a positive––and feminist––spin. A downtown secretary (Melanie Griffith) steals the identity of her investment banker boss (Sigourney Weaver) in order to sell a sure-fire marketing idea. But rather than being a political fable of the Man––er, Woman––keeping the hero down, like the 1980 feminist comedy Nine to Five, Working Girl was a fable of class mobility. In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin commented, "One of the many things that mark Working Girl as an 80's creation is its way of regarding business and sex as almost interchangeable pursuits and suggesting that life's greatest happiness can be achieved by combining the two," In some ways, the film serves as a counterpoint to Pretty Woman, the 1990 film that should have perhaps switched titles with Nichols' comedy. The film proved a feelgood hit, with the Carly Simon anthem "Let the River Run" going on to win the Academy Award for Best Song in 1989. Significantly, the original title to this stirring track was “The Wall Street Hymn.” While the big hair to big money story hit box office gold, the 1990 TV sitcom spun from the story was fired soon after its broadcast premiere.

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