Tod Browning was well acquainted with freak shows. Before his distinguished career in cinema, Browning started out in the circus. The spirit of Phineas Taylor Barnum, who had died a few years earlier, still marked everyone working in the business, which the ringmaster had transformed through his famous publicity stunts. His museum of horrors still sat in the center of Manhattan, where he exhibited without restraint his troupe of monsters and savages.
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