The Los Angeles Times reports that actress Dolores Fuller, the angora-clad muse of legendarily bad director Edward D. Wood Jr., died in her home on Monday after a long illness, at the age of 88.
Fuller was a successful model and TV actress (she appeared regularly on “Queen For a Day”) when she met Wood at a casting call. From The Times‘ obituary:
“When I got to the casting call and first laid eyes on the young Edward, I just thought he was extremely handsome, and his personality was bubbly and fun,” Fuller recalled in a 1994 interview with Tom Weaver for Fangoria magazine. “Then when I found out he was also a director and writer as well as a producer and actor, I was very impressed. … I knew immediately that he liked me, too.”
Wood cast her as the lead in his infamous first film, “Glen or Glenda” (1953). The deeply personal (and, yes, deeply flawed) picture told the story of a transvestite named Glen (Wood) who’s struggling to come to grips with his love of cross-dressing. Fuller played Barbara’s Glen’s girlfriend, who is unaware of Glen’s taste for women’s clothing, particularly her own angora sweaters. The scenario was largely autobiographical; Fuller and Wood were dating and, for at least the first year of their relationship, she never discovered his taste in clothes. In the film’s finale, famously recreated in Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic “Ed Wood,” Glen tells Barbara the truth, she gives him the sweater off her back, and they live happily ever after. That was the artist escaping into art in order to live out his fantasy. In truth, Fuller wasn’t quite so understanding of Wood’s transvestitism, and the couple broke up for a variety of reasons in 1955.
After Burton’s film renewed interested in Wood and his work, Fuller got a second shot at B-movie celebrity. Here’s a good interview with Fuller where she compares the realities of her life with Wood to the less flattering depiction in the film “Ed Wood.” She’s also got some not-so-nice things to say about the actress who played her, Sarah Jessica Parker (Note: the lower-third on Fuller is incorrect; Wood and Fuller were never married):
Parker may have written her off as “the worst actress in the history of film,” but after Fuller broke up with Wood she reinvented himself, studying with Stella Adler at the Actors Studio and becoming a successful songwriter. Here’s one of her most famous compositions, co-written with Ben Weisman, “Rock-A-Hula Baby” from the Elvis Presley film “Blue Hawaii:”
Fuller is gone now, but not forgotten. Whenever a guy is curious about his girlfriend’s outfit, or imagines Bela Lugosi in a wing chair screaming “PULL THE STRING!” she and Ed live on.