Dark Carnival

Dark Carnival

The Secret World of Tod Browning, Hollywood’s Master of the Macabre

David J. Skal and Elias Savada

The definitive biography of Hollywood horror legend Tod Browning—now revised and expanded with new material

416 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781517916732
  • Published: February 18, 2025
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Dark Carnival

The Secret World of Tod Browning, Hollywood’s Master of the Macabre

David J. Skal and Elias Savada

ISBN: 9781517916732

Publication date: February 18th, 2025

416 Pages

120 black & white illustrations

9 x 6

“An entertaining and informative biography of one of America’s most fascinating filmmakers.” —John Landis

“A detailed, painstakingly researched biography.” —Booklist

“A remarkable achievement.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Long overdue . . . a compelling, in-depth examination of one of America’s first cult film directors.” —Journal of Popular Film & Television

“Succeeds in resurrecting the reputation of one of Hollywood’s long-buried eccentrics.” —Houston Chronicle

“Tod Browning remains an enigma, but Dark Carnival casts more light on him than all previous writings about him combined.” —American Cinematographer


The definitive biography of Hollywood horror legend Tod Browning—now revised and expanded with new material

One of the most original and unsettling filmmakers of all time, Tod Browning (1880–1962) began his career buried alive in a carnival sideshow and saw his Hollywood reputation crash with the box office disaster–turned–cult classic Freaks. Penetrating the secret world of “the Edgar Allan Poe of the cinema,” Dark Carnival excavates the story of this complicated, fiercely private man. In this newly revised and expanded edition of their biography first published in 1995, David J. Skal and Elias Savada researched Browning’s recently unearthed scrapbooks and photography archives to add further nuance and depth to their previous portrait of this enigmatic artist.

Skal and Savada chronicle Browning’s turn-of-the-century flight from an eccentric Louisville family into the realm of carnivals and vaudeville, his disastrous first marriage, his rapid climb to riches in the burgeoning silent film industry, and the alcoholism that would plague him throughout his life. They offer a close look at Browning’s legendary collaborations with Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi as well as the studio politics that brought his remarkable run to an inglorious conclusion. With a revised prologue, epilogue, filmography, and new text and illustrations throughout, Dark Carnival is an unparalleled account of a singular filmmaker and an illuminating depiction of the evolution of horror and the early film industry.

David J. Skal (1952–2024) was one of the foremost authorities on horror in popular culture. His many books include Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen; The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror; Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween; and Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula.

Elias Savada is a film historian, copyright researcher, and founder and director of the Motion Picture Information Service in Bethesda, Maryland. He is a film critic for Film International, a contributor to the Mid-Atlantic Brew News, and compiled the The American Film Institute Catalog: Film Beginnings, 1893–1910.