Monday, July 28, 2014

Glen or Glenda 1953

I finally saw this movie and I have to say that I was very much taken with it. Sure its cheap and badly acted but it also charming and when was the last time you saw a movie sympathetic to transvestites and transsexuals especially from the early 50’s that wasn’t a horror movie. Made (and that’s the right word for this movie) by Ed Wood Jr. who also stars as both Glen and Glenda and who was in real life s a heterosexual transvestite with a yen for angora sweaters. You can easily watch and consider this 65 minute film as autobiographical, part real and part fantasy.  The movie has a hand made look, like a junky assemblage found in some flea market and if it was a painting or an object it would probably be hanging in the American Folk Art Museum. Outsider movie making. There are many jaw dropping scenes in this little dump of a movie and much of it involves cross dressing and also sex change procedures and the perils and sadness that comes with this life. The film starts with a transvestite dead on a bed, a suicide and the detective in charge played by Lyle Talbot takes it upon himself to educate himself about men who like to dress as women, and visits a doctor who gives him and us the lowdown on the Glens and Glenda’s of the world. And lowdown  is what we get as we enter flashbacks, stock footage and voice-overs. Wood films everything straight on, in claustrophobic set-ups and with some on location shots notably Glenda walking the streets of L.A. wistfully window shopping for female attire. Especially memorable and weird is the dream sequence that is comprised of scenes (most of which looks like stock footage) of 50’s babes slithering and posing on stained couches, with a touch of bondage thrown in. There is also someone in a weird devil’s costume that looks like it was a left over from a Woolworth’s Halloween sale, this is the stuff of nightmares and cheap surrealism.  And then there’s Bela. Lugosi is listed in the credits as “scientist” and its Bela who has much of the classic lines of the film. Some say he’s God pulling the strings, I think its Bela whose pulling our strings. He pops in and out of the film sitting in a chair surrounded by cheap looking props and with eyes popping. And then there’s Dolores Fuller who was a terrible actress but in her ineptitude would grandly take over and control a scene. Dolores and the final scene of her taking off her angora sweater and handing it to Glen as a token of her love and acceptance of him is quite touching even if in real life Dolores who was Ed’s girlfriend refused his offer of marriage because she couldn’t deal with his love of wearing women’s clothes "He (Ed Wood) begged me to marry him. I loved him in a way, but I couldn't handle the transvestism. I'm a very normal person. It's hard for me to deviate! I wanted a man that was all man.”


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