(Ho-stess’s Note: Mr. Browning’s bday was actually yesterday, but my comp got itself an STD and needed a day to recover. Can’t NOT celebrate someone so rad, though, so as always when I’m late w stuff, just #gowithit, please… 😉 xoxo)
Happy Birthday(ish ;)) to cinema’s dark ringmaster, Mr. Tod Browning!
While he directed a wide variety of films in many genres, Mr. Browning is known for his many ho-orr films and bizarre melodramas. Like many of us, Browning was utterly obsessed with carnivals and circuses. So much so that he literally ran away with the circus. Tod lived the dream and traveled with many sideshows, carnivals, and circuses. Some of Browning’s jobs included being a talker for the The Wild Man of Borneo, performed a burial act as “The Living Corpse,” and performed as a clown with Ringling Brothers Circus. Browning later worked in vaudeville as an actor, dancer, and magician.
Browning may have left the circus, but the circus never left him. Many of Browning’s films dealt with the sideshow in fascinating, often macabre ways. No doubt due to his eXXXperience, his circus pictures has an air of authenticity to them. Browning would hire actual sideshow performers, giving audiences a genuine taste of the beautifully unique side of show business. Of all his circus pictures, his most beloved is 1932’s Freaks, a cl-ass-sick of ho-rror sinema that’s as powerful today as it was back then.
Browning often collaborated with site favorite Lon Chaney, resulting in some of the best work in both men’s careers. Between 1919 and 1929, Browning and Chaney made 10 films together, most dealing with misfits and the bizarre. Among their films was London After Midnight, the legendary lost vampire film that still fascinates and eludes horror aficionados. While they made many great films together, our favorite is 1927’s The Unknown and we recommend it to anyone who wants an introduction to their peculiar style,
The Unknown, in its entirety:
Beyond the circus pictures, Browning made other brilliant contributions to the ho-rror genre. In 1931, he directed Dracula with Bela Lugosi. The film was originally intended to be another Chaney/Browning collaboration, but Chaney sadly passed away before it could happen. However, the film we got is one of the most important American ho-rror films ever made and launched the career of another great macabre movie star. Lugosi and Browning would later sink their teeth into Mark of the Vampire, a remake of the aforementioned London After Midnight. Browning’s final fright film was The Devil Doll, a wonderfully weird picture about a cross-dressing criminal using miniaturized humans to exact his revenge.
Happy Birthday, Tod! You made sinema a circus of ho-rrors! 🙂 xoxo