Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning, Hollywood’s Master of Macabre

Oasis Audio. Oct. 2022. 9:14 hrs. ISBN 9781685922610. $35.99. FILM
This biography of auteur film director Tod Browning, first published in 1995 by film historians Skal (Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker) and Savada (The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States), is now available in audio and is narrated by Skal himself. Drawing from interviews with Browning’s family and coworkers, press clippings, and reviews, the authors present an intriguing picture of this enigmatic man. Born in Louisville, KY, in 1880, Browning was fascinated with carnivals and ran away before graduating high school to join a traveling circus. His experience in the circus would play a major role in his films, which often focused on the occult, the violent, the grotesque, and the macabre. Browning had a successful career working in silent films and broke into sound films with the iconic horror film Dracula (1931). His success was short-lived, however, as his next disastrously received production, Freaks (1932), shocked audiences, lost money, and was banned in some countries. Browning worked on a handful of films following Freaks but retired in 1939 and spent the next 20 years living in seclusion. Skal’s perfectly paced and engaging narration is an excellent accompaniment to the text, and his deep familiarity with the subject comes through.
VERDICT Fans of classic cinema will relish this well-researched and illuminating biography of an important filmmaker.
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