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BellaOnline's Classic Film Editor


Remembering Actress Dolores Fuller

Guest Author - Amber Grey

Surrealist artist Salvador Dali found his muse in Elena Ivanora Diakonova. Pop artist Andy Warhol found his muse in underground "it" girl Edie Sedgwick. Beatles legend John Lennon found his muse in multi-talented artist and musician, Yoko Ono. And legendary D-film director and cult legend Ed Wood found his muse in actress Dolores Fuller.

It was 1952 at a casting call where Ms. Fuller was met by Wood's fun personality and good looks. The actress knew there was an instant attraction and she was especially impressed to find out that he was balancing many hats as a director, writer, producer and actor.

A year later, Wood cast Ms. Fuller in his first picture, "Glen or Glenda" (1953) which starred Fuller and featured Universal Studio legend Bela Lugosi. Although it is considered one of the worst films ever made, like the rest of Wood's filmography, it is argumentatively an interesting film that was both a pseudo-documentary and autobiographical to Wood's real life as a transvestite. And it was Ms. Fuller's angora sweaters that helped inspire the film.

Wood would tell Ms. Fuller that wearing the sweaters would help his creativity while he was writing and Ms. Fuller didn't question it. The finished product of the film, however, came as a surprise to her, with what she assumed was a sweater fetish of his, turned out to be his coming out as a transvestite.

Although this secret of Wood's life, as well as his alcoholism, affected Ms. Fuller, she continued to stay by the eccentric director's side for 3 years and was cast in two more of his films. But in 1955, when Ms. Fuller was beginning to become the "breadwinner" was putting a strain on the relationship. Wood and Ms. Fuller amicably broke up.

Life after being with Ed Wood took a remarkable turn for Ms. Fuller when she was introduced to songwriting by a friend of hers, Hal Wallis. What initially started as trying out for a part in "Blue Hawaii" (1961) became a different career. As an amateur songwriter, she was thrust into working with some of the top writers in the country, writing songs for Elvis Presley movies. Her background in acting and ballet helped her contribute her skills on creating character and liveliness to some of the most memorably Elvis film songs including "Rock-a-Hula Baby," "Do the Clam" and "Got Lucky." She even changed the title of one of Elvis's films when she wrote the song called "Spinout" (1966) for a script titled "Raceway", the film's title was changed to fit her song. Ms. Fuller wrote for a total of 12 of Elvis's films.

It was in 1994 when director Tim Burton released "Ed Wood", a bio-pic of one of his chief inspirations, that he contacted Ms. Fuller and she was suddenly pushed back into the limelight with the film's release. In an interview with the Kansas City Star at the time, Ms. Fuller was quoted saying, "Ed always said he'd make me a star. I just didn't realize it would take 42 years."

However, when the film was released, Ms. Fuller did not like the film's portrayal of her relationship with Wood nor Sarah Jessica Parker's portrayl of herself. Ms. Fuller argued that the film did not show how much of team Wood and Fuller were in their relationship when it came to making their films. And she especially did not like that the film made her look like an actress trying to climb her way up the Hollywood ladder. Other problems Ms. Fuller noted was that Parker is shown smoking throughout the film, a habit Fuller never partook in her real life. It was only the start of a small rift that was made between Ms. Fuller and Parker.

At a press party for the film, Parker bragged to her, "I just got through telling everybody that I just played the part of the worst actress in the history of film." To further prove Parker's lack of research for the role, on Late Night with David Letterman, when asked if she knew if Ms. Fuller was still alive and what she had done with her life, Parker's response was, "I'm going home and have a ground glass cocktail."

When asked about Parker's blatant un-professionalism, Ms. Fuller said, "She didn't contact me. Here she's playing my life and she didn't do any research." And her response to the comments made at the press party, "That wasn't nice, it was wasn't professional. She didn't know me. It hurt."

In 2008, Ms. Fuller released her own autobiography titled, "A Fuller Life: Hollywood, Ed Wood and Me" which was co-written with Stone Wallace and her husband, film historian Philip Chamberlin". In it she writes about her life before, during and after being with Ed Wood.

On May 9, 2011, Ms. Fuller passed away at the age of 88. But her legacy as a cult icon, a talented songwriter and class act will continue to live on.
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