Thursday, May 7, 2015


Written by Steve D. Stones

I have a strange theory. Some of my colleagues in the academic world of art  may scoff me for this theory, especially when comparing the two men that I’m  about to compare. My theory is this: Could the current interest in director  Ed Wood and the tragedy surrounding his life have come about for many of the  same reasons as the Dutch Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh? Okay, laugh  all you want, but I see many similarities in these two interesting men.

Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime and no one really  paid much attention to his work while he was alive. Not until long after  his death did the public begin to see the real genius in his life’s  work. His paintings now sell for more money than most famous artists who  have ever lived.

Ed Wood suffered a similar fate. His movies never did  much business, and not many people took him very seriously during his  lifetime. Not long after his death, Wood became a tragic star of the movie  industry. He is often written about and discussed more than any famous movie  director, living or dead. There are many books dedicated to the life and art  of Ed Wood, and hundreds of articles that have been written about him. Ed  Wood film festivals and retrospectives are held every year around the world.  Wood has become a cottage industry.

Director Tim Burton even made a  big budget Hollywood movie in 1993 about Ed Wood starring Johnny Depp in the  role of Wood. Many documentaries have also come out about the life of Wood. A  big budget Hollywood film was also made about Van Gogh in 1956 entitled Lust  For Life, written by Irving Stone and directed by Vincente Minnelli. Kirk  Douglas played the role of Vincent Van Gogh.

Over the last thirty  years or so since his death, it has become “hip” and sophisticated to say  you’re a fan of Ed Wood and his movies, even though most reputable film  critics still regard his films as amateurish and terrible. Could it be that  Ed Wood was just a misunderstood genius? That is the question that many of  his devoted fans often ask themselves, including my good friend Doug Gibson  and myself.

Why is it that Pop-Artist Andy Warhol can make a boring  eight-hour film of a man sleeping and we call it “art,” yet Ed Wood makes a  bold and entertaining political statement about aliens invading the earth in  Plan 9 From Outer Space and we call it “trash?” Wood’s Glen Or Glenda is  also regarded as “trash,” yet it too makes a very bold statement about  the need for tolerance of cross-dressing males and men who want a  sex change. Pretty bold stuff for 1953.

Van Gogh was said to suffer  from frequent hallucinations. We see this expressed in many of his paintings,  including his famous Starry Night painting. The swirling, thick impasto  strokes of paint in The Starry Night give the viewer a hallucinogenic state  of mind. Ed Wood also expressed a dizzying, hallucinogenic state of mind in  many sequences found in Glen Or Glenda.

Could it be that Van Gogh was  also misunderstood? Both Ed Wood and Vincent Van Gogh were heavy drinkers.  Both men were also womanizers. Wood’s mother dressed him up in little girl’s  clothing when he was a boy because she wanted a girl. Van Gogh’s mother often  rejected him because she was never fully able to get over the death of her  first-born son, also named Vincent. Both men also surrounded themselves with  artists who were rapidly declining in their careers, or had yet to be  discovered. Wood dabbled in pornography later in his career, and Van Gogh  slept with prostitutes.

Ed Wood may have never slashed off any part  of his body, as Van Gogh did with his ear, but I say the similarities of  these two men are too uncanny to overlook. I stand by my theory. The world  loves the tragic story of the tragic life of a creative genius.

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