Sunday, May 7th, 2023

Is Ed Wood’s 1953 film GLEN or GLENDA the worse movie of all time OR a queer cult classic?


It’s not often that movie critics are united in their opinions but when it came to Ed Wood’s 1953  GLEN OR GLENDA they were united and proclaimed it the worst film ever.  Strangely enough, the 4 time Academy Award-nominated Best Director (he won once) David Lynch has declared one of his favorite film of all time.

The film is an exploitative docudrama about cross-dressing and transvestism, and is semi-autobiographical in nature as Wood himself was a cross-dresser, and the film is a plea for tolerance.  Now some 70 years the film has been seriously reevaluated with its idiosyncratic style plus early cinematic themes of transgender acceptance.

We first see Glen asking to wear his sister’s dress for a Halloween party,  and it is explained that he is a transvestite, but not a homosexual.  He hides this from his fiancée, Barbara, fearing rejection  him, but she is more suspicious that there may be another woman in his life.   There is but the woman is actually his feminine alter ego, Glenda.

The narrator tells us that Glen is torn between the idea of being honest with Barbara before their wedding or waiting until after.  So he confides in a transvestite friend of his, John, whose wife left him after catching him wearing her clothes.

Glen/Glenda is caught out in a thunderstorm, which causes him to collapse to the floor and have a dream which contains several vignettes symbolically depicting Glen’s struggle with his sexuality. Glen/Glenda wakes and decides to tell Barbara the truth, and although she initially reacts with distress, she ultimately decides to stay with him. She offers him an angora sweater as a sign of acceptance !!!!

The film was loosely inspired by the sex reassignment surgery of Christine Jorgensen, which had made national headlines the year before. Wood who was himself a cross-dresser actually made a movie about transvestism but confusingly, the posters for the film still claimed it was based on Jorgensen’s case.

Wood persuaded Bela Lugosi who was dealing with drug addiction to star in the film, whilst he took the role of Glen/Glenda.  The whole film was shot in just 4 days.  It was so bad that It was denied classification by the British Board of Film Classification but it did get very limited runs in places like Argentina, China, and Brazil.

In 2209 the film was restored and subsequently released on DVD. And there are snatches of it in Tim Burton’s film Ed Wood which propelled it toward cult status. 

It is a queer movie that you know you shouldn’t watch (it’s on several major platforms) but you simply take your eyes off it.  Well, this critic couldn’t.



Review : Roger Walker-Dack

Editor in Chief : Queerguru 
Member of G.A.L.E.C.A. (Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association) and NLGJA The Association of LGBT 
Journalists. and The Online Film Critics Society. Ex Contributing Editor The Gay Uk &Contributor Edge Media 
Former CEO and Menswear Designer of  Roger Dack Ltd in the UK    
one of the hardest-working journalists in the business' Michael Goff of Towleroad


Posted by queerguru  at  16:21

Genres:  down right weird, drama, genderqueer

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