Dolores Fuller, best known as the actress who indulged Ed Wood’s angora fetish (and other quirks) both on-screen and off, has died after a long illness. She was 88.
Before Fuller met the man who would turn her into something of a cult icon, she worked as a model and bit player—including a background appearance in It Happened One Night—who found a steady job as Dinah Shore’s stand-in. She answered a casting call for a film Wood was tipped to direct called Behind Locked Doors (it eventually went to Budd Boetticher who, in an odd coincidence, did end up casting Wood regular Tor Johnson) and became his girlfriend shortly thereafter. Fuller later said that Wood kept his predilection for dressing in women’s clothing from her for nearly a year before finally asking to wear one of her angora sweaters; she didn’t find out the extent of his obsession until after she’d already starred opposite him in the infamous Glen Or Glenda (Wood filmed most of his scenes in drag when Fuller was off set), and claimed she was humiliated by the revelation at the film’s first screening.
Nevertheless, she stuck by him, also appearing in two more of his movies, Jail Bait and 1955’s Bride Of The Monster. But when Wood gave the lead role in the latter film to another actress, Fuller—tired as well of his drinking and relying on her to pay the bills—left him and embarked on a successful career as a songwriter. With the help of producer Hal Willis, Fuller crafted several tunes for Elvis Presley to sing in his movies, including “Rock-A-Hula Baby,” “Kid Galahad,” and “It Happened At The World’s Fair.” Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee were fans of her work too, recording Fuller’s “Someone To Tell It To” and “Losers Weepers,” respectively.
Although Fuller’s acting career stalled thanks to the abysmal reception of Wood’s movies, it was also resuscitated thanks to their cult resurgence, a new fascination sparked by Tim Burton’s Ed Wood in 1994. Fuller reportedly didn’t care much for Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal (mostly because it showed her smoking, which Fuller claimed she never did) and didn’t like that it reduced her to just a bit player in Wood’s story, but she fully embraced the newfound attention, turning up in modern low-budget horror films like The Ironbound Vampire, Dimensions In Fear, and 2000’s The Corpse Grinders 2. In 2009, Fuller released her autobiography, A Fuller Life: Hollywood, Ed Wood, And Me.