Are you a teenager in the late 50s or the early 60s?
Are you planning on running off to Hollywood to become a star?
Do you need someone to tell you what to expect once you find yourself on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams?
Hollywood’s most successful director — the one and only Ed Wood, Jr. — is here to help!
Okay, maybe I’m going a little bit overboard with the hyperbole here. Though Ed Wood is today best known for being played by Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton film, he was not just a movie character! Nor was just a filmmaker! Ed Wood was also an author. When Wood didn’t have the money to make a movie, he would write a book. In fact, it’s speculated that Wood actually made more money writing books than he did making movies.
Unfortunately, the majority of these books have been lost to time. The ones that survive are generally either sex manuals or pulpy novels about hitmen who love to wear angora. However, Hollywood Rat Race was Wood’s attempt to write, in the first person, about the industry and the city that he both loved and hated. Hollywood Rat Race is Wood’s warts-and-all look at the film industry. It’s his guide for how to make it in Hollywood.
What is Wood’s advice?
Be physically attractive. Do whatever the director tells you to do. Don’t be shocked when an executive chases you around a desk. Sleep your way to the top if you have to but just be aware that no one will respect you once you get old. Wood presents Hollywood as being a cold and unfeeling place but, at the same time, he also describe working in movies and television as the greatest career that anyone could hope for. Wood will often start a chapter on a cautionary note but his enthusiasm for Hollywood always wins out in the end. Reading the book, you realize that Wood loved the business too much to reject it, even if it did often reject him.
Hollywood Rat Race is not, despite what is claimed on the book’s back cover, a memoir. Not really. Yes, Wood does mention that he was friends with Bela Lugosi. And he does talk about how Tom Tyler came out of retirement to appear in Plan 9 From Outer Space. He mentions thar another member of his stock company didn’t complain about being attacked by an octopus in Bride of the Monster. But those looking for juicy behind-the-scenes stories will be disappointed. Instead, the book gives the impression that every experience Wood ever had with an actor or a film was a positive one. Rather touchingly, it’s kind of easy to see Hollywood Rat Race as representing the Hollywood that Ed Wood dreamed of, as opposed to the Hollywood where Wood eventually went broke and drank himself to death.
Hollywood Rat Race was not published in Wood’s lifetime. He wrote it shortly after the release of Plan 9 but the book was not published until after Tim Burton’s film reignited interest in Wood in 1994. It’s a good book for all of he Wood completists out there.
And, before anyone asks, yes — he does recommend wearing an angora sweater to your next audition.