Dolores: A Fuller Portrait

One of the more egregious mistakes made by non-Ed Wood fans is their mischaracterization of director’s casts as a conglomeration of nobodies, bottom-feeeders, and inexperienced non-actors. While many of the supporting players and extras in his films were non-professionals, the principals were usually people with decent experience and credentials, which is why Wood hired them in the first place. Yes, it’s true that none of them was Cary Grant, but some, like Bela Lugosi and Lyle Talbot had once been pretty close. For years, I had the misconception that Dolores Fuller (Dolores Agnes Elbe, 1923-2011) was one of the former category, merely Wood’s girlfriend, someone who later made good as a songwriter for Elvis movies, but certainly an amateur prior to that.

Wrong! IN fact Glen or Glenda (1953) was not even Fuller’s first film. She’d had small roles in a half dozen films prior to that. Her first was the Franck Capra classic It Happened One Night (1934) when she was only 11 years old. Her career began in earnest with Outlaw Women (1952) featuring the aforementioned Talbot, Marie Windsor and Jackie Coogan. Then came Girls in the NIght with Harvey Lembeck and Glenda Farrell, The Blue Gardenia with Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, and Ann Sothern, and Count the Hours! with Teresa Wright and MacDonald Carey, all 1953. She also worked as Dinah Shore’s stand-in on her TV variety show.

It was only at this stage that Fuller met and became involved with Wood, who cast her in his notorious independent feature Glen or Glenda, learning therefrom that her boyfriend liked to wear women’s clothes. Despite that and Wood’s alcoholism, Fuller managed to stay in the folk through Jail Bait (1954) and Bride of the Monster (1956). She was bumped from the lead in the latter film, and forced to take a walk-on part, an indignity which proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. She had other things going on anyway. In 1953 she had been in Mesa of Lost Women with Coogan and Talbot; The Body Beautiful, for which she also received her first cinematic songwriting credit; and The Moonlighter with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. The following year she was in Playgirl with Shelley Winters, The Raid with Van Heflin, Richard Boone, and Anne Bancroft; and This is My Love with Dan Duryea and Linda Darnell. She also appeared on the television shows The Great Gildersleeve and The Adventures of Superman and one last film, The Opposite Sex (1956) with June Allyson and Joan Collins

From here she stepped effortlessly into being a songwriter. Her tune “Cindy, Cindy” was used on Maverick and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in the late ’50s. She then wrote songs for the Elvis movies Blue Hawaii (1961), Kid Galahad (1962), It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963), Kissin’ Cousins (1964), Roustabout (1964), Girl Happy (1965), Spinout (1966), Easy Come Easy Go (1967), and Change of Habit (1969). The tunes that Elvis recorded were covered by other major artists, and performed on television as well.

In the wake of the Wood renaissance of the 1990s, Fuller took roles in another round of low-budget horror movies: The Ironbound Vampire (1997), Dimensions in Fear (1998), and The Corpse Grinders 2 (2000).

Now here she is on the topic of Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal in Ed Wood: