A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.

Director:

Tod Browning

Writers:

Clarence Aaron 'Tod' Robbins (suggested by story: "Spurs") (as Tod Robbins), Willis Goldbeck (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Wallace Ford ... Phroso
Leila Hyams ... Venus
Olga Baclanova ... Cleopatra
Roscoe Ates ... Roscoe (as Rosco Ates)
Henry Victor ... Hercules
Harry Earles ... Hans
Daisy Earles ... Frieda
Rose Dione ... Madame Tetrallini
Daisy Hilton Daisy Hilton ... Siamese Twin
Violet Hilton Violet Hilton ... Siamese Twin
Schlitze ... Pin Head
Josephine Joseph ... Half Woman-Half Man
Johnny Eck Johnny Eck ... Half Boy
Frances O'Connor Frances O'Connor ... Armless Girl
Peter Robinson Peter Robinson ... Human Skeleton
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Storyline

A circus trapeze artist, Cleopatra, takes an interest in Hans, a midget who works in the circus sideshow. Her interest however is in the money Hans will be inheriting and she is actually carrying on an affair with another circus performer, Hercules. Hans's fiancée does her best to convince him that he is being used but to no avail. At their wedding party, a drunken Cleopatra tells the sideshow freaks just what she thinks of them. Together, the freaks decide to make her one of their own. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Strangest... The Most Startling Human Story Ever Screened... Are You Afraid To Believe What Your Eyes See? See more »

Genres:

Drama | Horror

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Most of the sideshow performers were put up at the Castle Apartments next to the MGM lot during filming. See more »

Goofs

Hercules rushes out of the wagon in pursuit of Joseph/Josephine, hot on his/her heels, but when Cleopatra looks out the window a moment later, Jo is leaning casually against a wagon applying makeup. He/she would not have had time to relax and get out a compact in that short amount of time. See more »

Quotes

Venus: [she has just been kicked out of Hercules' trailer; she is very upset; yells at Phroso, who is just standing there minding his own business] Well, what are you staring at? Didn't you ever see a lady move before? I guess you've been listening to every word he said.
Venus: [Phroso still hasn't said a word; she has a loud tone of voice] That's it. That's it! Go ahead and laugh. It's funny, ain't it?
Venus: [Phroso still hasn't said a word; her voice is sarcastic] Yeah. Women are funny, ain't they? They're all tramps...
[...]
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Alternate Versions

Reissue prints included a two-and-a-half minute written prologue about historical interpretations and contemporary studies of "misshapen misfits." These same prints remove the MGM Lion (the studio having disowned the film for many years). See more »

Connections

Featured in MGM: When the Lion Roars: The Lion's Roar (1992) See more »

Soundtracks

Wedding of the Winds
(uncredited)
Music by John T. Hall
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User Reviews

 
Visit This Sideshow at Your Peril
25 January 2000 | by Ron OliverSee all my reviews

A forest glade somewhere in Europe. A warm, sunny day with children playing on the grass. But the camera moves closer and reveals that something is terribly wrong. For these are not children, but tragically misshapen human beings. Pinheads. Dwarfs. A young man with only half a body. A man without arms or legs. These are the Freaks.

In 1932, director Tod Browning, fresh from his success with DRACULA, was instructed by Irving Thalberg to top FRANKENSTEIN. He succeeded. The resulting film was considered so ghastly that it was banned in Britain for 30 years. It is the strangest film MGM ever released.

Browning wanted to tell a tale of love, greed & revenge set in a circus, most particularly in the sideshow of human anomalies. He scoured Europe & America for the perfect cast. He got them: Violet & Daisy Hilton, the celebrated Siamese twins; dwarf brother & sister Harry & Daisy Earles; Johnny Eck the Half Boy (a good actor, he will remain in your mind a long time); the tragic Josephine Joseph, a hermaphrodite; as well as a human skeleton, armless girls and the female pinheads, among others.

While the plot is exploitive & the title tasteless, these people show us glimpses of their hearts, some of the agony of their condition and make us wonder, `What if I'd been born as one of them?'

The rest of the cast is made up of MGM stock players Leila Hyams, Wallace Ford, Edward Brophy, Olga Baclanova and the screen's champion stutterer Roscoe Ates.

The plot is simple. A beautiful trapeze artist marries a dwarf for his money, then plots his murder with her lover, the circus strong man. The subsequent action is both horrifying & strangely satisfying. Various scenes - the Freaks' Banquet, the chase through the storm - are among the most bizarre ever filmed. You won't soon forget the time you spend with the FREAKS.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German | French

Release Date:

20 February 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Forbidden Love See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$310,607 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,072
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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