Tag Archives: bride of the monster

From Schlock to Rock: The Unbelievable Saga of Dolores Fuller

My friend Bill West and I will soon begin hosting a television show in Santa Clarita introducing films made in the area.

A lot of schlocky, MST3K-type, low-budget horror and science-fiction films were shot up here, which is good for us, because we’re both big fans.

While tossing around ideas for our first shows, Bill brought to my attention that Dolores Fuller had died just a few days ago.

Fuller was one of the members of the angora sweater-wearing auteur Ed Wood’s “acting” troupe, as well as his one-time girlfriend. She was portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker in Tim Burton’s incredible 1994 biopic Ed Wood.

I’ve long been intrigued by the story of Dolores Fuller. She was born Dolores Eble in Indiana in 1923, and after coming west, landed a bit part in Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night as an 11-year-old.

As an adult, she worked behind the scenes in television for Queen For A Day and The Dinah Shore Show, before meeting Wood in 1952, when she tried out for a role in one of his films.

The two fell in love and she began appearing in his movies, most notably in 1953’s Glen or Glenda?, a film based on Wood’s closeted transvestitism. Wood’s cross-dressing would eventually doom the relationship, but not before Fuller appeared in Wood’s Jail Bait in 1954, and in the deliciously bad Bride of the Monster the following year.

After splitting with Wood, Fuller learned that there were few opportunities in Hollywood for a Z-movie queen who wanted to advance up the alphabet to choice roles in better productions.

So, she became a songwriter for some guy named Elvis.

Fuller’s road from schlock to rock started when she asked her friend Hal Wallis for a part in Presley’s Blue Hawaii. Instead, Wallis – who earned countless fortunes producing Presley’s films – hooked her up with a composer, and Fuller ended up co-writing Rock-a-hula, Baby, which Elvis performs in the film.

Fuller would eventually write a dozen songs for Presley’s films during the 60s, as well as other tunes that were recorded by another member of music’s royal family – Nat “King” Cole.

She appeared for years at autograph shows and Ed Wood film fests before passing away in Vegas on May 9 at the age of 88.

With luck, Bill and I will find a local connection with Glen and Glenda? so that we can present the film to an unsuspecting Santa Clarita Valley audience.

Should this happen, we’ll leave it to you to decide who looked better in angora – Dolores or Ed.

Hail, the Sultan of Schlock!

You rarely hear him described this way, but Ed Wood was an American success story. Wood, the angora sweater-wearing film producer, director, writer, editor, and actor, died on this date in 1978 at the age of 54.

With buckets of desire (and thimbles of talent) he was able to carve out a noted Hollywood career that culminated in a pinnacle of sorts, when he was awarded the Golden Turkey Award as the “Worst Director of All Time.” While certainly not the type of superlative you aim for in a movie career, it has insured Wood a certain cinematic immortality.

Wood was born in New York to a civil servant father and a mother who dressed him in girls clothes until he was twelve. He would remain a cross-dresser for the rest of his life. He served honorably as a Marine in World War II, often wearing panties and a bra beneath his uniform. After the war he joined a carnival where he worked as a freak show performer dressed in drag as a bearded lady.

Wood made it to Hollywood in the late 40s, and first made news as the director, writer, and star of Glen or Glenda?, an exploitation film about transvestitism. Wood appeared in the title roles, donning a skirt, blonde wig, and angora sweater while playing Glen’s alter-ego Glenda. (Wood, who was straight, loved wearing angora and even used “Ann Gora” as a penname.)

Wood assembled an eclectic and eccentric stock company of Hollywood has-beens and never-weres, including Vampira (Maila Nurmi), Tor Johnson, Lyle Talbot, Bunny Beckinridge, television psychic Criswell, and Bela Lugosi, who was by this time a morphine addict. The troupe appeared in a bevy of Wood’s no-budget “classics” over the next few years, like Bride of the Monster, Jail Bait, and The Sinister Urge.

Wood’s “magnum-opus” is undoubtedly Plan Nine From Outer Space, which he shot over five days in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. The money for the film came from a Southern Baptist church, whose trustees required that Wood and his actors be baptized first into the congregation.

Plan Nine is a story about a race of invading aliens who animate the dead to take over Earth. It has cardboard special effects, terrible acting, and even worse dialogue and direction. It’s so mind-bogglingly bad that it’s brilliant! It’s one of my favorite films.

Wood’s “career” died along with his biggest star, Bela Lugosi. He ended up making smut films around Hollywood until his death. But an auteur like Wood could never be completely forgotten.

In 1994, Tim Burton directed the hilarious film Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp as Wood, and Martin Landau (in an Academy Award winning performance) as Bela Lugosi. Two years later, the “Church of Ed Wood,” a legally-sanctioned religion, was formed by a Sacramento man. Today, the church has over 3000 members, who are known as “Woodites, who were all baptized on-line. The organization’s motto is, “Healing souls and wearing panties since 1996.”