Tod Browning Introduction - Essay

Introduction

Tod Browning 1882–1962

American filmmaker and actor.

Browning's horror films are macabre and atmospheric, differing from the stereotype of that genre because of his insight into the characters. Browning began his film career as an assistant to D. W. Griffith on Intolerance. Prior to his arrival in Hollywood, Browning had realized a typical boy's dream: he had run away from home and joined a carnival troupe. Through this experience he was exposed to a highly unconventional and unusual way of life. Later he would accurately and compassionately depict the grotesque atmosphere of the sideshow in his film Freaks.

In many of his other films, Browning collaborated with Lon Chaney. Understanding Chaney's penchant for parts requiring contortions and bizarre make-up, he devised roles especially for that actor and wrote his scripts around those characters. Most critics consider these films the most successful in the careers of both men.

Still, it may be true that Browning is best remembered as the director of Dracula, filmed after Chaney's death and starring Bela Lugosi. Browning's reputation rests not only on the sensationalism of horror films but also on his unique point of view. He portrayed deformed outcasts with understanding and sympathy, giving them unusual dignity and depth of characterization.