Tod Browning

Tod Browning
Bison Archive


Tod Browning
Film: North side of the 6200 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Charles Albert Browning on July 12, 1880 in Louisville, KY
Died Oct. 6, 1962 in Santa Monica, CA

Tod Browning was an actor, director and screenwriter known best for directing the 1931 classic “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi and as half of an influential director-actor team with the "Man of a Thousand Faces," Lon Chaney, in the 1920s.

Browning worked as an actor with D.W. Griffith while the director was at Biograph Company, which made motion pictures in New York and California, and continued working with him after Griffith's move to California, including having a minor part in the epic "Intolerance" (1916). Between 1913 and 1919, Browning appeared as an actor in approximately 50 motion pictures.

One of Browning and Chaney's first films together was "The Wicked Darling" (1919). After giving two of his most renowned performances in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "The Phantom of the Opera" for Universal, Chaney went to MGM. There, he and Browning worked on the 1925 crime melodrama "The Unholy Three."

They continued their collaboration in the late 1920s in a series of bizarre melodramas and thrillers, including "London After Midnight" (1927), "The Unknown" (1927) and "West of Zanzibar" (1928).

Browning wanted Chaney to appear in his 1931 version of "Dracula," but the actor died of cancer in 1930. He cast Broadway star Bela Lugosi, who had worked with the director two years earlier in a small part in the thriller "The Thirteenth Chair."

MGM lured Browning back to the studio but was shocked by his 1932 effort, "Freaks," which lighted a firestorm of controversy, was severely edited and even removed from distribution.

In “Freaks,” Browning, who had been a circus performer before he turned to film, cast performers with real physical deformities, including "living torso" Prince Randian, conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton and "pinheads" Elvira and Jenny Lee Snow. Over the years "Freaks" has grown in reputation and now is considered one of the most remarkable films of the 1930s.

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