Bela’s Decline

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Awful Auteurs: Ed Wood and the Hayes Code

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The Hayes Code was the restrictive list of rules that Hollywood filmmakers had to follow in order to get their films into mainstream theaters. 


This film guaranteed ankle-free.

The rules required that certain seamy situations and themes not be explored in a film and that any wrongdoing be punished by the end of the film. Enterprising filmmakers, desperate to find any loopholes in the code, embraced the punishment rule. Couldn't they show some criminality and depravity if it all got punished in the end? The answer was mostly yes, though with certain restrictions. One of the experts at dancing around the restriction was schlockmeister Ed Wood.


"It's alright as long as the degenerates get punished, right?"

Ed Wood knew how to skirt the rules, pushing situations just to the brink of the Hayes Code, defending his plots by pointing out that the criminals, harlots and degenerates all got punished in the end. Besides, these were meant to be cautionary tales.


Ignore your daughter? This is what will happen!

Unfortunately for Mr. Wood, his films weren't able to fool enough people into theaters to make him a wealthy filmmaker. His brand of filmmaking wouldn't get fully "appreciated" until long after his death.


"Some crimes are not so bad..."

The Hayes Code would collapse in 1968, to be replaced by the current rating system. Instead of telling filmmakers what they could include in a film, the new system simply rates the films after the fact. Since the rating determines how many theaters will show the film, it has much the same effect as the original Hayes Code, except with less guidance. Which is an improvement. We guess.

Awful Auteurs: Ed Wood Meets James Cagney

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Ed Wood was obviously never known for producing top quality films. His only connection with a legendary actor- Bela Lugosi- was mostly an accident caused by Mr. Lugosi's late in life drug and career problems. Otherwise, quality actors weren't lining up to work for Mr. Wood.



Things quite possibly might have gone differently for Ed, however, had a run-in with a legend paid off for him. While filming his second film- the misleading Jailbait (the titular "jailbait" is a gun) a legendary actor happened upon the set.

According to actor Lyle Talbot, James Cagney was apparently driving around when he noticed Ed and the cast doing a location shoot. Mr. Cagney inquired about the production, which Ed Wood no doubt described in exaggerated terms. Cagney was impressed and offered to do an impromptu cameo for Ed, which would no doubt raise the stature of this misleadingly titled mess.



As Ed Wood sat back to figure out a quick way to work the legendary Mr. Cagney into his film, a police officer with the LAPD showed up. Did Mr. Wood have a film permit? To the surprise of nobody who has studied the filmmaking of Ed Wood, he did not. By this time, James Cagney had lost all interest in this shadow production and withdrew his offer of a cameo. The world was left to wonder about what might have been.

Awful Auteurs: Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda

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Glen or Glenda was Ed Wood's first directed film. It was originally supposed to be called I Changed My Sex. After all, producer George Weiss had already printed up the movie posters. It was meant to capitalize on the outrageous story of Christine Jorgenson, whose famed gender reassignment survey titillated Americans. Ed, however, made the film more about transsexualism than gender reassignment. Cobbling together random stock footage and casting his childhood hero Bela Lugosi, Ed Wood creates one of the most Woodsian films of his career.




Ed thought his film would be well received, but it was a disaster, displeasing producer George Weiss and incapable of making back its meager budget. The whole debacle didn't sour Ed Wood on movie making, however; he would eagerly search for another opportunity to make another film.




Awful Auteurs: Ed Wood Begins

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Ed Wood has become a Hollywood legend in the world of bad movies. His films, which were mostly ignored at the time they were made, have become strange classics, enjoyed by lovers of forgotten cinema.



Mr. Wood was born in 1924 in Poughkeepsie, New York. His father worked for the postal service. His mother had really wanted a daughter, so she would dress Ed up like the girl she never had. Some people thought that was why Wood became a heterosexual cross dresser later in life. Ed loved the movies, with Bela Lugosi as his favorite actor. He would later get the opportunity to work with Mr. Lugosi.

Ed's parents recognized his interests and they bought him a camera for his 12th birthday. He quickly began making his own films. Unfortunately, he also began skipping school to sneak off to see movies. When World War II began, he enlisted in the Marines, seeing heavy combat. (He lost his teeth in an attack made by a Japanese soldier.) Wood was scared of getting killed in action because he wore ladies lingerie under his uniform. After returning to the states, Ed decided that his creative passions were becoming too strong to ignore. In 1947 he headed out to Hollywood to follow his dreams.