Glen or Glenda? (1953)

65 or 67 mins | Melodrama | 1953

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Transvestite or The Transvestite . Glen or Glenda? was also released under the following titles: I Changed My Sex , I Led Two Lives and He or She . Glen or Glenda? opens with the following written foreword: “In the making of this film, which deals with a strange and curious subject, no punches have been pulled—no easy way out has been taken. Many of the smaller parts are portrayed by persons who actually are, in real life, the character they portray on the screen. This is a picture of stark realism—taking no sides—but giving you the facts---All the facts---as they are today: You are society---JUDGE YE NOT….” Daniel Davis, the name of the actor who appeared in the film as “Glen-Glenda,” is a pseudonym for director-writer Edward D. Wood, Jr.
       Scenes not documented in the above synopsis include a buffalo herd stampede, a group of primitive peoples dancing to drums, two narrators discussing sex change operations over scenes of a factory, the “scientist” issuing periodic warnings and a lengthy sequence involving women enacting stripteases or sexually suggestive situations. According to a modern source, the striptease scenes were taken from a film directed by W. Merle Connell. The title of Connell’s film has not been determined.
       According to an advertisement in SFChron , Glen or Glenda? was screened under the title I Changed My Sex in that city on 2 Apr 1954. A later 17 Apr 1954 LAEx advertisement indicated that the film, as Glen ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Transvestite or The Transvestite . Glen or Glenda? was also released under the following titles: I Changed My Sex , I Led Two Lives and He or She . Glen or Glenda? opens with the following written foreword: “In the making of this film, which deals with a strange and curious subject, no punches have been pulled—no easy way out has been taken. Many of the smaller parts are portrayed by persons who actually are, in real life, the character they portray on the screen. This is a picture of stark realism—taking no sides—but giving you the facts---All the facts---as they are today: You are society---JUDGE YE NOT….” Daniel Davis, the name of the actor who appeared in the film as “Glen-Glenda,” is a pseudonym for director-writer Edward D. Wood, Jr.
       Scenes not documented in the above synopsis include a buffalo herd stampede, a group of primitive peoples dancing to drums, two narrators discussing sex change operations over scenes of a factory, the “scientist” issuing periodic warnings and a lengthy sequence involving women enacting stripteases or sexually suggestive situations. According to a modern source, the striptease scenes were taken from a film directed by W. Merle Connell. The title of Connell’s film has not been determined.
       According to an advertisement in SFChron , Glen or Glenda? was screened under the title I Changed My Sex in that city on 2 Apr 1954. A later 17 Apr 1954 LAEx advertisement indicated that the film, as Glen or Glenda? , was then being screened in downtown Los Angeles. According to various news items, Paramount Pictures acquired Glen or Glenda? in 1981 and planned a re-release on 1 Apr of that year under the title Glenn or Glenda . Village Voice reported that Paramount planned to advertise the film as a “classic,” but then reveal it as a spoof as an April Fool’s joke. Although the film was, in fact, re-released in that month, the 1 Apr release was cancelled.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: Producer George Weiss initially intended to make a documentary about sex changes featuring real-life transsexual Christine Jorgensen; however, Jorgensen turned down his offer. The film was shot at Larchmont Studios in Los Angeles, CA, and director of photography William C. Thompson appeared in the cast as a judge. Portions of the 1994 film Ed Wood , directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as Ed Wood, dramatized the making of Glen or Glenda? and depicted Wood as a transvestite. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Examiner
17 Apr 1954.
---
San Francisco Chronicle
2 Apr 1954.
---
Village Voice
15-21 Apr 1981
p. 58.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit dir
PRODUCERS
Prod under personal supv of
WRITER
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Settings
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
Mus consultant
SOUND
Sd tech
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Medical adv
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
He or She
I Changed My Sex
I Led Two Lives
The Transvestite
Release Date:
1953
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
65 or 67
Length(in feet):
5,832
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After observing that humankind is most often surprised by that which is familiar to science, a scientist mixes a smoking liquid in a beaker and announces the start of a new life. The scientist’s image then appears to hover over a busy city street while he remarks on people’s individuality. Elsewhere in the city, police inspector Warren is called to the scene of a suicide. The deceased is a transvestite whose suicide note reveals that he killed himself following his fourth arrest for appearing in public dressed in women's clothes. Warren consults with psychoanalyst Dr. Alton, seeking advice that may help prevent another similar death. Alton explains the difference between transvestism, which involves wearing the clothes of the opposite sex, and sex change, which requires surgery to change gender, and urges public compassion. As Alton verbally explores the concept of transvestism, newspaper headlines report public reactions to sex change operations, and transvestites are seen in public and at home. He then tells the story of Glen, a transvestite whose alter ego is named Glenda: As a boy, Glen enjoyed wearing his sister’s clothes, much to the chagrin of his father and sister, Sheila. Glen is now engaged to Barbara, who is unaware of his propensity for wearing women’s clothes. Although Glen fears that Barbara will leave him if she knows the truth, his friend Johnny suggests he tell her before they are married. Johnny, whose wife divorced him after finding him dressed in her negligee, reminds Glen that his advice is based on his own experiences. Glen is tortured by his dilemma and experiences disturbing fantasies about ... +


After observing that humankind is most often surprised by that which is familiar to science, a scientist mixes a smoking liquid in a beaker and announces the start of a new life. The scientist’s image then appears to hover over a busy city street while he remarks on people’s individuality. Elsewhere in the city, police inspector Warren is called to the scene of a suicide. The deceased is a transvestite whose suicide note reveals that he killed himself following his fourth arrest for appearing in public dressed in women's clothes. Warren consults with psychoanalyst Dr. Alton, seeking advice that may help prevent another similar death. Alton explains the difference between transvestism, which involves wearing the clothes of the opposite sex, and sex change, which requires surgery to change gender, and urges public compassion. As Alton verbally explores the concept of transvestism, newspaper headlines report public reactions to sex change operations, and transvestites are seen in public and at home. He then tells the story of Glen, a transvestite whose alter ego is named Glenda: As a boy, Glen enjoyed wearing his sister’s clothes, much to the chagrin of his father and sister, Sheila. Glen is now engaged to Barbara, who is unaware of his propensity for wearing women’s clothes. Although Glen fears that Barbara will leave him if she knows the truth, his friend Johnny suggests he tell her before they are married. Johnny, whose wife divorced him after finding him dressed in her negligee, reminds Glen that his advice is based on his own experiences. Glen is tortured by his dilemma and experiences disturbing fantasies about the potentially disastrous consequences if he tells Barbara his secret: Barbara is shot, Barbara is felled by a tree, Barbara turns into the Devil as a crowd of people taunt a cowering Glen. Glen finally overcomes his fears and confesses his transvestism to his fiancée. Although Barbara does not fully understand, she is compassionate and offers to let him wear her angora sweater that he has admired. Alton now tells Warren that while Glen’s minor problem was instigated by a loveless childhood, another case involving a man named Alan was more serious: Alan’s mother had always wanted a girl, and as a child, he was drawn toward traditionally female activities. Although as an adult, Alan served in the Army during World War II, he secretly carried women’s clothing in his suitcase for comfort. Alan became a decorated soldier and was honorably discharged, and while in an Army hospital recuperating from battle injuries, he learned about sex change operations. After a consultation with Alton and several specialists, it was determined that Alan was a pseudo-hermaphrodite, a person with two sex organs, one of which was not visible. Because Alan had always felt more like a woman, he opted for a sex change operation that would make him a female. Alton provided Alan guidance and education following his operation, after which Alan became Ann. Despite a great deal of unwanted publicity, Ann was grateful finally to lead a normal life. Alton now reminds Warren that there have been hundreds of similar operations, but that in Glen’s case, only therapy and his wife’s devotion were necessary. Glen and Barbara attend psychotherapy sessions with Alton, and in time, Glen surrenders the “character” of Glenda. After Warren wonders about the hundreds of less fortunate “Glens” in the world, the scientist reappears and echoes his concern. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.