Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
May 23
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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