Known as the ‘Edgar Allan Poe of cinema’, Tod Browning is the dark master of filmmaking. However, despite the commercial success he enjoyed during his lifetime, he has never received the critical acclaim his work deserves. The Films of Tod Browning at last pays tribute to his cinematic legacy.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1880, Charles Albert Browning left home and ran away with a travelling carnival when he was only 16, changing his name to Tod along the way. Browning reportedly performed as “the Living Hypnotic Corpse”, buried alive in a box with a secret ventilation system. Eventually winding up in Hollywood he worked as an actor and then as assistant to the famous director DW Griffiths, before graduating to make films of his own.
Hugely influential on directors such as David Lynch, John Waters and Tim Burton, Browning employed a unique cinematic style, involving crosscutting between scenes, dark noir-ish shadows, and macabre subject matter. However, successes such as The Unholy Three, The Blackbird and Dracula (which introduced Bela Lugosi in 1931 and forever set the standard for ‘the Dracula Look’) were overshadowed by the release of Freaks in 1932.
Set in a circus, Freaks tells the story of a love triangle between a beautiful trapeze artist, ‘the peacock of the air’, an affluent dwarf and Hercules the strongman. With its controversial cast of ‘real freaks’ and gruesome denouement Freaks was banned across America and around the world. The film was a huge commercial failure. Browning lived out his days in relative obscurity directing only four more films and struggling to get his projects green-lighted.
In 1944 Variety mixed up his wife’s death with Browning’s own and published an obituary. 18 years later, on 6 October 1962, Browning died alone in the bathroom of his house at Malibu Beach. The Films of Tod Browning finally does justice to his whole oeuvre, reinstating him to the pantheon of great cinematic auteurs. Illustrated with over a hundred original stills along with studio shots, lobby cards and posters, this book is the definitive text on Browning’s singularly complex body of work.
With contributors including Vivian Sobchack, Bernd Herzogenrath and Nicole Brenez, The Films of Tod Browning covers subjects including images of disability, the body as spectacle, the transition from silent to ‘talkie’ films and theatrical illusion in Browning’s films as well as analysing films such as Dracula, Mark of the Vampire and the often overlooked Iron Man in detail. An essential for film buffs and academics alike.
Robin Blyn, Stephan Brandt, Nicole Brenez, Elisabeth Bronfen, Alec Charles, Stefanie Diekmann, Leger Grindon, Boris Henry, Bernd Herzogenrath, Ekkehard Knörer, Vivian Sobchack, et al,
155 b/w and colour ills
25.0 x 18.0 cm
10.0 x 7.0 in
ISBN10: 1 904772 51 X