Ed Wood is one of my all-time favorite movies. The Oscar-winning 1994 biopic directed by Tim Burton created a new generation of fans for the maligned director of Glen or Glenda? and Plan 9 from Outer Space. When I was invited to a private display of historical items from the estate of Ed Wood by the screenwriters of Ed Wood, I jumped at the chance.
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski continue to have a deep affection for Wood and his comrades, and it was a thrill to dig alongside them through the personal photographs, letters, Christmas cards, and tokens of affection from actor friends including Criswell, John “Bunny” Breckinridge, and Paul “Kelton the Cop” Marco. It was Marco’s great nephew Jason Insalaco that assembled the collection and brought the group together. Spread out over several rooms of his San Fernando Valley home were artifacts ranging from a signed program from Wood’s postwar theater troupe The Casual Company (Dear Mom & Dad; ‘Another great success for me,’ Jr., October 25, 1945) to an angora sweater purchased for a relative to his sleazy ’70s porn stories.
The centerpiece of the archive was purchased from a Boston auction house earlier this year: two trunks filled with candid behind the scenes photos, press clippings, contracts, and promotional materials that belonged to the director/producer/writer/actor. A never-seen image of the cast of Plan 9 has notes requesting that “smoke, props, and a ‘Lugosi picture’” be pasted over the top, and a loan contract on lavishly engraved stationery promises the moon if the lender will give a little more time to pay.
Insalaco restored the lost black and white TV special Final Curtain and premiered it at the Slamdance Film Festival. He brought these items back to Los Angeles and hopes they will further the legacy of the movie legend. I suggested it would make a great exhibition at the upcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
“The best Ed Wood comes dangerously close to the world of experimental film artists of the era, such as Kenneth Anger and Man Ray,” film historian Rob Craig told the New York Times in 2012. “His best films are abstract, surreal and highly symbolic…what he created was nothing short of magical — and utterly unique.” Maybe the world has finally come to respect the mad genius of Edward D Wood, Jr.