Glen or Glenda?


1h 5m 1953

Brief Synopsis

Upon discovering the suicide of a known transvestite, the police inspector seeks enlightenment from a psychiatrist familiar with the phenomenom. The psychiatrist tells him two tales. Glen is to be married to Barbara, but must find a way to tell her of his desire to wear her angora sweater, and of his cross-dressing needs in general. Another is the story of Alan, who decides to physically become a female via surgery (based on the contemporary story of Christine Jorgensen). Throughout the film a scientist inanely babbles about life and death in order to somehow elucidate the story.

Film Details

Also Known As
He or She, I Changed My Sex, I Led Two Lives, The Transvestite
MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jan 1953
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Screen Classics Productions, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 5m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,832ft

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 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.

Film Details

Also Known As
He or She, I Changed My Sex, I Led Two Lives, The Transvestite
MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jan 1953
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Screen Classics Productions, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 5m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,832ft

Quotes

No one can really tell the story. Mistakes are made. But there is no mistaking the thoughts in a man's mind. The story is begun.
- Scientist
People... all going somewhere... all with their own thoughts... with their own ideas... with their own personalities.
- Scientist
I'd like to hear the story to the fullest.
- Inspector Warren
Only the infinity of the depths of a man's mind can really tell the story.
- Dr. Alton
Beware! Beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys... Puppy dog tails, and BIG FAT SNAILS... Beware... Take care... Beware!
- Scientist
Pull the string! Pull the string!
- Scientist
The world is a strange place to live in. All those cars. All going someplace. All carrying humans, which are carrying out their lives.
- Narrator

Trivia

This is the only movie that Ed Wood directed but didn't produce.

Notes

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 San Francisco Chronicle, Glen or Glenda? was screened under the title I Changed My Sex in that city on April 2, 1954. A later April 17, 1954 Los Angeles Examiner 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 April 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 April 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.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring April 1953

Film was originally released by Screen Classics.

Released in United States Spring April 1953