Tod Browning

Tod Browning

Infobox actor
name = Tod Browning

imagesize =
caption =
birthname = Charles Albert Browning, Jr.
birthdate = birth date|1880|7|12
birthplace = city-state|Louisville|Kentucky, U.S.
deathdate = death date and age|1962|10|6|1880|7|12
deathplace = city-state|Malibu|California, U.S.
othername =
occupation = Film actor, director, screenwriter
yearsactive = 1915–1946
spouse =
partner =
influences =
influenced =
website =
awards =

Tod Browning (July 12, 1880 – October 6, 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), the cult classic "Freaks" (1932), and classic silent movie collaborations with Lon Chaney, Sr., Browning directed many movies in a wide range of genres.

Early life

He was born Charles Albert Browning, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky, the second son of Charles Albert and Lydia 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, dancer, etc. 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.

In 1913 Griffith split from Biograph and moved to California. Browning followed and continued to act in Griffith's films, now for Reliance-Majestic Studios, including a stint as an extra in the epic "Intolerance". Around that time he began directing, eventually directing 11 short films for Reliance-Majestic. Between 1913 and 1919, Browning would appear as an actor in approximately fifty motion pictures.

In June of 1915, he crashed his car at full speed into a moving train. His passengers were film actors Elmer Booth and George Siegmann. Booth was killed instantly, while Seigmann and Browning suffered serious injuries, including in Browning's case a shattered right leg and the loss of his front teeth. During his convalescence, Browning wrote scripts, and did not return to active film work until 1917.

ilent feature films

Browning's feature film debut was "Jim Bludso" (1917), about a riverboat captain who sacrifices himself to save his passengers from a fire. It was well-received.

Browning moved back to New York in 1917. He directed two films for Metro Studios: "Peggy, the Will O' the Wisp" and "The Jury of Fate", both starring Mabel Taliaferro, the latter in a dual role achieved with double exposure techniques that were groundbreaking for the time. He moved back to California in 1918 and produced two more films for Metro: "The Eyes of Mystery" and "Revenge".

In the spring of 1918 he left Metro and joined Bluebird Productions, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, where he met Irving Thalberg. Thalberg paired Browning with Lon Chaney, Sr. for the first time for the film "The Wicked Darling" (1919), a melodrama in which Chaney played a thief who forces a poor girl from the slums into a life of crime. Browning and Chaney would ultimately make ten films together over the next decade.

The death of his father sent Browning into a depression that led to alcoholism. He was laid off by Universal and his wife left him. However, he recovered, reconciled with his wife, and got a one-picture contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The film he produced for MGM, "The Day of Faith", was a moderate success, putting his career back on track.

Thalberg reunited Browning with Lon Chaney for "The Unholy Three" (1925), the story of three circus performers who concoct a scheme to con and steal jewels from rich people using disguises. Browning's circus experience shows in his sympathetic portrayal of the antiheroes. The film was a resounding success, so much so that it was later remade in 1930 as Lon Chaney's first (and only) talkie. Browning and Chaney embarked on a series of popular collaborations, including "The Blackbird" and "The Road to Mandalay". "The Unknown" (1927), featuring Chaney as an armless knife thrower and Joan Crawford as his scantily-clad carnival girl obsession, was originally titled "Alonzo the Armless" and could be considered a precursor to "Freaks" in that it concerns a love triangle involving a circus freak, a beauty, and a strongman. "London After Midnight" (1927) was Browning's first foray into vampire film and is a highly sought-after lost film which starred Chaney, Conrad Nagel, and Marceline Day. The last known print of "London After Midnight" was destroyed in an MGM studio fire in 1965. In 2002, a photographic reconstruction of "London After Midnight" was produced by Rick Schmidlin for Turner Classic Movies. Browning and Chaney's final collaboration was "Where East is East" (1929), of which only incomplete prints have survived. Browning's first talkie was "The Thirteenth Chair" (1929), which was also released as a silent and starred Bela Lugosi.


After Chaney's death in 1930, Browning was hired by Universal Pictures to direct "Dracula" (1931). Although Browning wanted to hire an unknown European actor for the title role and have him be mostly offscreen as a sinister presence, budget constraints and studio interference necessitated the casting of Bela Lugosi and a more straightforward approach. Although the film is now considered a classic, at the time Universal was unhappy with it and preferred the Spanish-language version filmed on the same sets at night.

After directing the boxing melodrama "The Iron Man" (1931), he began work on "Freaks" (1932). Based on the short story "Spurs" by Clarence Aaron "Tod" Robbins, the screenwriter of "The Unholy Three", the film concerns a love triangle between a wealthy dwarf, a gold-digging aerialist, and a strongman; a murder plot; and the vengeance dealt out by the dwarf and his fellow circus freaks. The film was highly controversial, even after heavy editing to remove many disturbing scenes, and was a commercial failure. Browning's career was derailed.

Browning found himself unable to get his requested projects greenlighted. After directing the drama "Fast Workers" (1933) starring John Gilbert, who was also not in good standing with the studio, he was allowed to direct a remake of "London After Midnight", originally titled "Vampires of Prague" but later retitled "Mark of the Vampire" (1935). In the remake, the roles played by Lon Chaney in the original were split between Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi (spoofing his Dracula image).

After that, he directed "The Devil-Doll" (1936), originally titled "The Witch of Timbuctoo", from a script he wrote himself. It starred Lionel Barrymore as an escapee from an island prison who avenges himself on the people who imprisoned him using living "dolls" who are actually people shrunk to doll-size and magically placed under Barrymore's hypnotic control. Browning's final film was the murder mystery "Miracles for Sale" (1939).

Director filmography

* Miracles for Sale (1939)
* The Devil-Doll (1936)
* Mark of the Vampire (1935)
* Fast Workers (1933)
* Freaks (1932)
* Iron Man (1931)
* Dracula (1931)
* Outside the Law (1930)
* The Thirteenth Chair (1929)
* Where East Is East (1929)
* West of Zanzibar (1928)
* The Big City (1928)
* London After Midnight (1927)
* The Unknown (1927)
* The Show (1927)
* The Road to Mandalay (1926)
* The Blackbird (1926)
* Dollar Down (1925)
* The Mystic (1925)
* The Unholy Three (1925)
* Silk Stocking Sal (1924)
* The Dangerous Flirt (1924)
* White Tiger (1923)
* The Day of Faith (1923)
* Drifting (1923)
* Under Two Flags (1922)
* Man Under Cover (1922)
* The Wise Kid (1922)
* No Woman Knows (1921)
* Outside the Law (1920)
* The Virgin of Stamboul (1920)
* Bonnie Bonnie Lassie (1919)
* The Petal on the Current (1919)
* The Unpainted Woman (1919)
* The Exquisite Thief (1919)
* The Wicked Darling (1919)
* Set Free (1918)
* The Brazen Beauty (1918)
* The Deciding Kiss (1918)
* Which Woman? (1918)
* Revenge (1918)
* The Eyes of Mystery (1918)
* The Legion of Death (1918)
* The Jury of Fate (1917)
* Peggy, the Will O' the Wisp (1917)
* Hands Up! (1917)
* A Love Sublime (1917)
* Jim Bludso (1917)
* Puppets (1916)
* Everybody's Doing It (1916)
* The Fatal Glass of Beer (1916)
* Little Marie (1915)
* The Woman from Warren's (1915)
* The Burned Hand (1915)
* The Living Death (1915)
* The Electric Alarm (1915)
* The Spell of the Poppy (1915)
* The Story of a Story (1915)
* The Highbinders (1915)
* An Image of the Past (1915)
* The Slave Girl (1915)
* The Lucky Transfer (1915)


After "Miracles for Sale", Browning did some scenario work for MGM. In 1942 he retired and moved to Malibu. He became such a recluse that soon after his wife died in 1944, "Variety" accidentally published an obituary for him. Even his neighbors rarely saw him. In the late 1950s he developed throat cancer, necessitating tongue surgery. When his brother Avery died in 1959, he attended the funeral from a private room and would not let family members see him.

Tod Browning was found dead at age 81, on October 6, 1962, in the bathroom of some friends in Malibu. He is interred in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles.

ee also

*List of Louisvillians

Further reading

*"Dark Carnival" (1995) (ISBN 0-385-47406-7) by David J. Skal and Elias Savada.

External links

*imdb name|id=0115218|name=Tod Browning
*amg name|2:83287

NAME=Browning, Charles Albert
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Film director/actor
DATE OF BIRTH=1880-07-12
DATE OF DEATH=1962-10-05

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tod Browning — Nombre real Charles Albert Browning, Jr. Nacimiento 12 de julio de 1882 Louisville, Kentucky,  Estados Unidos …   Wikipedia Español

  • Tod Browning — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Browning. Tod Browning Données clés Nom de naissance Charles Albert Browning, Jr. Naissance 12 juillet 1880 Louisville (Kentucky) États Unis …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Tod Browning — Charles Albert Browning (* 12. Juli 1882 in Louisville, Kentucky; † 6. Oktober 1962 in Santa Monica, Kalifornien) war ein US amerikanischer Filmregisseur, der vor allem durch einige Beiträge zum klassischen Horrorfilm der 1920er und 1930er Jahre… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Tod Browning — Тод Броунинг Tod Browning Имя при рождении: Чарлз Альберт Броунинг младший Дата рождения: 12 июля 1880 …   Википедия

  • Tod Browning — Charles Albert Browning, Jr. (Louisville, Kentucky EEUU, 12 de Julio de 1882 Hollywood, California EEUU, 6 de Octubre de 1962), más conocido como Tod Browning, fue un director y actor americano que desarrolló su etapa artística tanto en la era …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Browning — ist der Name mehrerer Personen: Christopher Browning (* 1944), US amerikanischer Historiker Daniele Browning (* 1981), jamaikanische Sprinterin David Browning (1931–1956), US amerikanischer Wasserspringer Edmond Lee Browning (* 1929), US… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Tod (Begriffsklärung) — Tod steht für: Tod, der Verlust der Lebensfunktionen eines Lebewesens Tod (Antike), die Bestattungsformen und Philosophie frühgriechischer Zeit Tod in der Medizin, das Ende des Lebens eines Individuums Tod, eine Figur der Scheibenwelt Romane von… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Browning, Tod — orig. Charles Albert Browning born July 12, 1880, Louisville, Ky., U.S. died Oct. 6, 1962, Malibu, Calif. U.S. film director. He was a circus performer and vaudeville comic before joining the Biograph film studio in 1915. He wrote several… …   Universalium

  • Browning — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Browning peut désigner : Sommaire 1 Patronyme 2 Toponyme …   Wikipédia en Français

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