Tod Browning (12 July 1880 – 6 October 1962) was an American motion picture actor, director and screenwriter.
Browning's career spanned the silent and talkie eras. Best-known as the director of Dracula (1931 in film), the cult classic Freaks (1932 in film), and classic silent film collaborations with Lon Chaney, Sr., Browning directed many movies in a wide range of genres.
He was born Charles Albert Browning, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky, the second son of Charles Albert and Lydia Browning, and the nephew of baseball star Pete Browning. As a young boy, he put on amateur plays in his backyard. He was fascinated by the circus and carnival life, and at the age of 16 he ran away from his well-to-do family to become a performer.
Changing his name to "Tod", he traveled extensively with sideshows, carnivals, and circuses. His jobs included working as a talker (barker, as the term is also known, isn't correct) for the Wild Man of Borneo, performing a live burial act in which he was billed as "The Living Corpse", and performing as a clown with the Ringling Brothers Circus. He would draw on this experience as inspiration for some of his film work.
He performed in vaudeville as an actor, magician and dancer. He appeared in the Mutt and Jeff and The Lizard and the Coon acts, and in a blackface act titled The Wheel of Mirth alongside comedian Charles Murray.
Beginnings of a film career
Later, while Browning was working as director of a variety theater in New York, he met D. W. Griffith. He began acting along with Murray on single-reel nickelodeon comedies for Griffith and the Biograph Company.
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