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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

BONUS: Glen or Glenda (1953)


What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: One man's attempt to receive understanding from a world that often rejects him.


Plot Summary: In the 1950s, little is understood about Transvestitism. Director Ed Wood, in a seemingly autobiographical examination, seeks to inform the world on the topic through the story of Glen (Ed Wood), a man forced to deal with his own transvestitism after he becomes engaged to be married.


Cast:

  • Ed Wood as Glen/Glenda and the Screenwriter and Director

  • Timothy Farrell as Dr. Alton/Narrator

  • Dolores Fuller as Barbara

  • Bela Lugosi as Scientist/Spirit

  • 'Tommy' Haynes as Alan/Anne

  • Lyle Talbot as Inspector Warren

  • Charlie Crafts as Johnny

  • Conrad Brooks as Banker/Reporter/Pickup Artist/Bearded Drag

  • William M. A. deOrgler aka Captain DeZita as The Devil

*Recognition:

  • Glen or Glenda was released in April 1953.

  • It is what is known as an Exploitation Film or a film that tries to succeed financially by exploiting current trends, niche genres, or lurid content.

  • It was in limited release throughout its initial run due to low grossing returns.

  • In 1980, Wood was posthumously given the accolade of 'Worst Director of All Time' at the Golden Turkey Awards, and a revival of interest in his work followed. This led to Glen or Glenda being reissued in 1982. This cut included six minutes of additional footage. One of the restored scenes features Glen rejecting a pass made to him by a man. At this point, the film was reviewed seriously, and reclaimed as a radical work, by Steve Jenkins in the Monthly Film Bulletin.

  • The critic Leonard Maltin names Glen or Glenda as "possibly the worst movie ever made".

  • Richard Barrios describes Glen or Glenda as "one of the funniest and worst movies ever made".

  • David Lynch has named the film as one of his favorites.

  • In his book Cult Movies 3, Danny Peary suggests this is actually a radical, if ineptly made, film that presents a far more personal story than is contained in films by more well-respected auteurs.

  • In 1994, Tim Burton chronicled the troubled production of Glen or Glenda in Ed Wood. The film includes re-creations of several key scenes, including Lugosi's narration and Glen's plea for his girlfriend's understanding at the end of the film.

  • The film currently holds a 39% among critics on RT, and a 2.6 out of 5 on Letterboxd.

Did You Know:

  • The film was originally intended to be loosely based on the story of sex-change pioneer Christine Jorgensen.

  • Edward D. Wood Jr. got the part as the director because he confessed to the producer that he was a transvestite; something only his then girlfriend Delores Fuller knew at the time. In fact, his fellow producer-pal Alex Gordon lived with him as a roommate for over a year and he never knew about Ed wearing girls' clothes.

  • The entire film was shot in just four days.

  • Warren Beatty is purported to have sponsored its 1981 reissue by Paramount, while he was working there making Reds (1981).

  • In March 1981, Paramount placed a full-page page ad in the New York Times announcing the reissue of Glen or Glenda. It was heralded as a lost trail-blazing masterpiece in the tradition of Citizen Kane (1941), Freaks (1932), The Godfather (1972) and Napoleon (1927). A big New York premiere was scheduled for the reissue, but the date, April 1st, made film buffs suspect that the whole thing was an April Fool's Day joke. Paramount abruptly canceled the premiere the night before, citing the attempted assassination of then-president Ronald Reagan on March 30th. The film was quietly put into limited re-release the next month, and started appearing in TV "bad movie" film festivals soon after.

  • The film includes almost 14 minutes of stock footage, including the end credits, and 73 seconds that run concurrently with new footage of Bela Lugosi. The stock scenes include "Fake Lightning" (used 6 times), "Pedestrians" (3 times), "Highway Day" (3 times), "Highway Night" (twice), "Playground" (twice), "Superior Court" (twice), "Ridiculous Soft Core", "Natives", "Bison Stampede", "Parking Lot", "Steel Foundry", "WWII", "Ambulance", "Airplane", "Signalman", "Milkman", and "Girls with Fuzzy Hats or Sweaters."

  • Bela Lugosi was broke and an addict at the time, so he readily took on a role in the film, even though, according to Delores Fuller, he hated transvestites. Reportedly, he was paid $5000, but it was probably closer to $1000.

  • While the film had no sequel, Edward D. Wood Jr. used the character Glen/Glenda again in two of his novels. In "Killer in Drag" (1963), Glen/Glenda has become a serial killer. In its sequel "Death of a Transvestite", Glen/Glenda is executed.

  • The film was intended primarily for the drive-in market. It was one of a wave of "exploitative, cheap fare" marketed to teenagers.

  • The film is listed among the Top Ten Best Bad Films ever made in "The Official Razzie Movie Guide."

Best Performance: Ed Wood (Glen/Glenda/Director/Writer)

Best Secondary Performance: Dolores Fuller (Barbara)

Most Charismatic Award: Dolores Fuller (Barbara)

Best Scene:

  • The Suicide of Patrick/Patricia

  • Glen's Backstory

  • America and Sex Change Operations

  • The Confrontation

  • Alan/Anne

Favorite Scene: The Confrontation

Most Indelible Moment: Tragically, it's Bela Lugosi


Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Scientist: Beware. Beware. Beware of the big, green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys, puppy dog tails and big, fat snails. Beware. Take care. Beware.


Scientist: People... all going somewhere... all with their own thoughts... their own ideas... all with their own personalities.


Narrator: Glen did wear the dress to the Halloween party. He even took first prize. Then, one day... it wasn't Halloween any longer.


Sheila, Glen's Sister: Just how does one go introducing your friends to your brother when Brother's wearing you best sweater, your skirt, and makeup to boot?


Dr. Alton: Therefore two entirely different cases, handled in two entirely different ways have a happy ending.

Inspector Warren: Yeah, those two. But what of the hundreds of other less fortunate Glens, the world over?

Scientist: Yes. But what of the others, less fortunate Glens, the world over? Oh, snips and snails and puppy dog tails.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 2.0

Impact/Significance: 0

Novelty: 10

Classic-ness: 5

Rewatchability: 0.5

Audience Score: 5.3 (73% Google, 33% RT)

Total: 22.8


Remaining Questions:

  • None. I have no interest in thinking about this movie further.

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