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Tim Burton, His Film Ed Wood, and The Big Lie

What would say, or what would you do, were you to see one of your favorite actors being wrongfully portrayed in a movie, and you know that the falsehoods are likely being accepted as factual by many who viewed it?

It has been 30 years since Tim Burton brought his biopic of a grade z movie maker, who was an alcoholic, and enjoyed cross-dressing, to the screen. The film is ED WOOD, and stars Johnny Depp. Also starring as Bela Lugosi, is character actor Martin Landau.

Now we all know that all movies are really make believe. Many are adapted from books, and many changes occur from the page to the screen. Even those based on historical events, are reworked or take liberties with the truth, to the point that in time, people have a tendency to accept these movies as truth and fact, when they are not.

I love movies, especially the classic monster films of the 30s and 40s. I have read and collected a number of books on the people involved in the making of many of these films.

My rant is with the depiction of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood.

The film Ed Wood is presented as a biopic, not a comedy or parody.

Whenever I see any comments or photos on various web sites of this film or of the actor, there are always a number of participants who enjoy quoting some of the profane dialog attributed to Lugosi, from the film.

Do those folks believe it as factual? Are they simply being cute and enjoy posting profanity?

Allow me to set the record straight. The presentation of Bela Lugosi as a foul mouthed old man, spewing profanity at his whim, is total BS! It has been debunked by his son. It has been called out by other actors who worked with him. The profanity directed at Boris Karloff in the film, has been debunked not only by Lugosi's son, Bela Jr, but also by Boris Karloff's daughter, Sara.

This 'rivalry' between Lugosi and Karloff was mainly created by the Hollywood studio and the press corps. While it is true, that Karloff had the better career than Lugosi, there is no indication of dislike by either actor. They respected each other.
Yes, they were different! Lugosi was Hungarian. Karloff was British. They enjoyed different things. Karloff liked cricket, Lugosi liked soccer....etc. They were both professionals and charter members of the Screen Actors Guild.

It is well documented that Lugosi was a sick man during the last years of his life. It is a well known fact that earlier in his life he developed sciatica in his legs and grew an addiction to the prescribed treatment morphine. He was also the first actor to go public with his addiction and place himself into a hospital for rehab. It is true that he liked to drink and became an alcoholic (as was Ed Wood, but that is conveniently omitted in the film).

I will not deny that Bela Lugosi was far from perfect. That would be absurd. All of our favorites have flaws. They are human, as we all are, and have their shortcomings.

What I refuse to accept, is the false and terrible depiction of Lugosi in the film Ed Wood. I have searched for comments by Tim Burton about his film and specifically about his interpretation of Lugosi, during his association with Wood. So far, I have come up empty, but have not given up. My search continues.

It has been 30 years since the film debuted.
In that 30 years, has this false depiction of Bela Lugosi now become fact in the minds and hearts of the public?

I hope not.....but I will promise this: I will continue to debunk this false narrative about Bela Lugosi, until my last breath.

Thank you for reading.
Zaphod42 · 46-50, M
Dude, it’s a movie. Fiction. Not for a moment did it come across as a biography of anyone.

Actually, the only part I even remember is when Ed is hanging off the side of the building, held up only by the stitching in his pants, which he had ordered single stitch only. But then it turns out the tailor was a nice guy and gave him double stitching anyway, and that saves his life.(?) I can’t remember anything else so he may have fallen to his death regardless 🤷‍♂️😂
@Zaphod42 Those accounts were primarily about those main people, right?

Ed Wood isn't primarily about Lugosi, but he is apparently misdepicted; he's a supporting character who is used to abuse the legacy of the actual man.

What if some friend you knew became famous and you became a character--with your REAL/KNOWN NAME--in a "treatment" which inverted all the things which were important to you...

Would you be fine with that?
Zaphod42 · 46-50, M
@SomeMichGuy Look, OP asked my opinion if that movie made me think worse of Bela for the portrayal. I have, in many ways now, given a definitive NO as my answer. If you want to continue to be bent out of shape about a twisted portrayal of a minor background character which is loosely based on a real person with obvious extreme liberties taken for the sake of the narrative, then be my guest.
JSul3 · 70-79
@Zaphod42 I hardly see Lugosi as a secondary character.

It wouldn't have been too hard to consult with Lugosi's son before making a pathetic decision to portray him as Burton did. No excuse for it.
Maybe it wasn’t totally accurate, but at least it brought attention to the filmmaker. I paid to see these movies, often viewing with large audiences. We were entertained and when Plan 9 is on TV, I’ll watch it. I know the film, warts and all, and it’s stands up. Better than lots of "classics".
JSul3 · 70-79
@BlueSkyKing The question is, what was your impression of Bela Lugosi in the film?
@JSul3 Just like Bruce Lee, in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It’s fiction. I thought the casting was very good.
JSul3 · 70-79
@BlueSkyKing Ed Wood was not presented as fiction though, it was a biopic on Ed Wood.
hunkalove · 61-69, M
Too long to read but I stopped watching that movie long ago when I found out how wrong it was.
JSul3 · 70-79
@hunkalove At what point did you exit the film?
hunkalove · 61-69, M
@JSul3 I've seen it several times.
JSul3 · 70-79
@hunkalove What did you consider wrong?
Micro · 36-40, M
To be honest, Tim is a good guy, but he did a horrible job at remaking The Planet of the Apes.
Thank you.

I think the children of the night howl in happiness due to your efforts!
JSul3 · 70-79
@SomeMichGuy You are very kind.
I am not sure what Burton's intention was...shock value? I wish I could ask him.
uncalled4 · 56-60, M
My impression of Ed Wood is that it was as tethered to reality as its subject, that is to say loosely, at best.

It never occurred to me that this was the real portrayal of anyone, as campy as it was.

I ran into Tim Burton at a test screening of Sleepy Hollow, seemed happy as the audience responded well.

My personal crusade has to do with the often FALSE quote attributed to John Lennon about Ringo Starr. It's widely quoted, funny, even sounds like something snarky, as Lennon could be BUT HE NEVER SAID IT.
JSul3 · 70-79
@uncalled4 And there are those who truly believe that Lennon said it.

What many may not know is that McCartney often stepped in and re-recorded parts of songs if he felt it wasn't good enough...that included playing the drums or guitar, as he saw fit.
uncalled4 · 56-60, M
@JSul3 He did play drums on Dear Prudence, The Ballad of John and Yoko, Martha My Dear, and part of Back In The USSR, which was a comp track of probably the remaining three while Ringo had left. He used to overdub his bass to get a great performance, and also played guitar on many tracks, including the lead on "Taxman". But these moves were worked out between producer George Martin and the band for the most part; it would have been a dickish move to just replace someone else's part and I doubt anyone would have stood for it. But there was no way he did it unilaterally; I think they would have beat the shit out of him. Paul was a good player and ready to go quickly.

Supreme dickishness was the Eagles replacing Don Felder's vocal on Victim Of Love while he went to lunch. I'm not sure I agree with the approach[i][/i], but I agree with the decision.
Ed Wood is one of my favourite movies, brilliant and hilarious 🖤🖤
Bumbles · 51-55, M
Martin Landau was brilliant as Legosi, though.
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I am just shocked, SHOCKED, that Hollywood would DARE take license to reinventing real people's stories 🙄
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JSul3 · 70-79
@BlueGreenGrey That is my point. Many movies are based upon or adapted from actual events and real people.
When outrageous errors are shown in a film and are never challenged or debunked, they become reality....they become facts in the minds of those who watched.

By your own admission, you know little about Bela Lugosi....but if someone told you that he was a vulgar s.o.b. in his later years, because they saw Ed Wood, would you accept that as fact, already aware of your limited knowledge of him?
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