This cult classic is by Tod Browning from 1932.
Born into a well-to-do family in 1880, Charles Browning fell in love with a circus performer at the age of 16 and, changing his name to"Tod", he ran away and joined the circus.
He toured with circuses and carnivals for a number of years and in the early 1900s, he met D.W. Griffith and became an actor, making his debut in 1916. Working later as a director, his typical style was a mixture of fantasy, mystery and horror.
He made 10 films with silent movie legend Lon Chaney, the so-called man with 1,000 faces, father of Lon Chaney Jr., the Wolfman.
After the spectacular success of Dracula in 1931, through his intermediate, Irving Thalberg, Browning convinced Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, to make Freaks their entry into the horror genre. The film was sped into production with the belief that Browning was the man to make a horror film to match the success of Dracula.
Myrna Loy was originally chosen to star as Cleopatra and Jean Harlow was announced as Venus but both backed out, presumably because of the controversial subject matter.
Filming began in October, 1931, and was completed in 36 days, on a budget of $310,000, using left-over sets from a Greta Garbo picture.
But following disastrous test screenings, where one woman threatened to sue MGM, claiming the film made her suffer a miscarriage, the studio cut the picture from its original 90-minute running time to just over an hour.
Much of the sequence of the freaks attacking Cleopatra was removed, a gruesome sequence showing Hercules being castrated, a number of comedy sequences, and most of the film's original epilogue were cut.
A new prologue featuring a carnival barker was added, as was the new epilogue featuring the reconciliation of the tiny lovers. Despite the extensive cuts, the film was still negatively received by audiences, and was extremely controversial.
Because its deformed cast was so shocking to moviegoers of the time, the film was banned in the United Kingdom for 30 years.
Reviewers said things like:
"Any one who considers this entertainment, should beplaced in the pathological ward in some hospital.
"It must surely be a nightmarish spectacle for childrenand they had better be kept away."
"There is no excuse for this picture. It took a weakmind to produce it and it takes a strong stomach to look at it.”
"Adults not in normal health are urged not to see this picture!”
Browning had trouble finding work afterward, and this film effectively ended his career.
But in the early 1960s, Freaks was rediscovered as a counterculture cult film, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the film was regularly shown at midnight movie screenings at theaters in the United States.
In 2004, Entertainment Weekly ranked it as the 3rd best cult film of all time.
Hans, the midget, was born Kurt Schneider and came to the U.S. from Germany around 1915 with his sister, Freida, who was later known as the Midget Mae West.
In the early 1920's, 2 other sisters joined them, also little people, and the four siblings worked in the movies while simultaneously working for Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Harry appeared in 13 films, the most famous of which was The Wizard of Oz, where all 4 of them appeared as Munchkins, with Harry playing a member of the Lollipop Guild.
He was known for his dapper appearance and almost incomprehensible high-pitched German accent, which you’ll discover as you watch the film.
The Siamese, or conjoined twins, Daisy & Violet Hilton,were born in England in 1908 and were raised by the midwife who delivered them. This woman, Mary Hilton, saw the twins as her meal ticket and trained them to sing and play music.
But the girls were treated badly and kept in a state of poverty until 1931, when the sisters sued their "managers", and were awarded their independence.
They became their own managers and were very popular vaudeville performers. But their lives did not have a fairy tale ending.
After performing in Freaks and then Chained for Life in 1951, a film based on their life, Daisy and Violet left Hollywood. In 1955, they briefly operated a hot dog stand in Miami called The Hilton Sisters Snack Bar.
Their last public appearance was in 1968 at a drive-in movie theater in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their tour manager abandoned them there, and with no means of transportation and no income, they took a job in a nearby grocery store.
On January 4, 1969, the twins were found dead in their apartment from the Hong Kong Flu. According to forensics, Daisy died first, and Violet died perhaps 2 - 4 days later, a heart-breaking mental picture.
Schlitze the Pinhead, whose real name was Simon Metz, was born in Mexico in 1881. The correct term for his condition is microcephaly -Schlitzie's brain weighed only two ounces.
Although male, for most of his career Schlitze was dressed and exhibited as a girl, mainly because dresses simplified his bathroom needs.
After 30 years in sideshows and 4 film appearances, Schlitze was placed in an mental institution but a Canadian promoter found him and took him back on the road, where he remained on the sideshow circuit until he died at age 70 in 1971.
Because he outlived all his guardians, Schlitze was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave in Los Angeles County and his grave remained unmarked until August, 2008, when members of the website findagrave.com raised the money to buy a proper headstone for Schlitzie.
Wallace Ford, playing Phroso the clown, had a career as a character actor in over 200 films from 1932 to 1965. He was born Samuel Grundy, in England, and somehow as an infant, was separated from his parents and ended up in an orphanage in Canada.
He lived in seventeen foster homes until, at the age of 11, he ran away and joined a vaudeville troupe. After 3 years, he left that, to join a friend to ride the rails in the U.S.
But his friend was killed by a railroad car as they were jumping on a train and Grundy honored him by taking his name, Wallace Ford, as he started his career in the United States.
With his film career well underway, in the mid-1930s, he decided to look for his long-lost natural parents in England. The search drew worldwide headlines and ended successfully when he found his natural mother in England.
His last role was in the 1965 Sidney Poitier film A Patch of Blue.
Elizabeth Green, the stork woman, had no actual disorders,and was a physically normal woman. But with her unusual facial features, she made herself a career and toured with Barnum and Bailey as a 'freak'.
At only 2' 11", Angelo Rossitto was one of Hollywood's busiest "small" actors and had a film career that stretched from 1927 until 1987. He portrayed dwarfs, midgets, gnomes and pygmies as well as aliens and monsters in over 80 feature films and TV shows.
Born in 1908, Rossitto first appeared in silent films alongside Lon Chaney and John Barrymore. In the 30s, Rossitto regularly played alongside Bela Lugosi, and was a stunt double for Shirley Temple in many of her films.
He also had a recurring role as shoeshine man/informer,"Little Moe", in the 1970s TV series Baretta, starring Robert Blake. Then, at age 77 and nearly blind, Rossitto co-starred as the crazy scientist "Master Blaster" in 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Together with fellow actor Billy Barty, he was one of the founding members of Little People of America.
Prince Randian was born in British Guiana and had no arms or legs. He spoke English, French and German and although he was often carried by an assistant, he could get around on his own by rolling or slithering on his stomach.
He could also shave, paint, and roll and light his own cigarettes.
Strangely enough, the film rights to Freaks were at one time owned by the founder of the Church Of Satan in San Francisco.
Tame by today’s standards Freaks was controversial and horrifying in 1932.
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