Come celebrate our circus heritage with the 1932 american avant-guard movie “Freaks”.
This Pre-Code horror film in which the eponymous characters were played by people who worked as carnival sideshow performers and had real deformities. The original version was considered too shocking to be released and no longer exists. Directed and produced by Tod Browning, whose career never recovered from it, Freaks has been described as standing alone in a subgenre of one.
In the mid-16th century, freak shows became popular pastimes in England. Deformities began to be treated as objects of interest and entertainment, and the crowds flocked to see them exhibited. A famous early modern example was the exhibition at the court of Charles Iof Lazarus and Joannes Baptista Colloredo, two conjoined brothers born in Genoa, Italy. While Lazarus was handsome and functioning, his parasitic brother just dangled before him in a mass of limbs from his chest. When Lazarus was not exhibiting himself, he covered his brother with his cloak to avoid unnecessary attention. For example, in the 18th century, Matthias Buchinger, born without arms or lower legs, entertained crowds with astonishing displays of magic and musical ability, both in England and later, Ireland.
P. T. Barnum in the United States was a major figure in popularizing the entertainment. In 1842, Barnum introduced his first major hoax, a creature with the head of a monkey and the tail of a fish, known as the “Feejee” mermaid. Barnum followed that with the exhibition of Charles Stratton, the dwarf “General Tom Thumb” who was then four years of age but was stated to be 11. Charles had stopped growing after the first six months of his life, at which point he was 25 inches (64 cm) tall and weighed 15 pounds (6.8 kg). With heavy coaching and natural talent, the boy was taught to imitate people from Hercules to Napoleon. By five, he was drinking wine and by seven smoking cigars for the public’s amusement. coup.
P.T.Barnum, whose circus was bought out by the Ringling Brothers in 1907 to eventually form the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily Circus, was a big promoter of circus sideshows. He said, “Men, women, and children cannot live on gravity alone, and need something to satisfy their gayer lighter moods and hours, and he who ministers to this want, in my opinion, is in a business established by the Creator of our nature. If he worthily fulfils his mission and amuses without corrupting, he need never feel like he has lived in vain.”
For many of these “freaks” it was the only form of employment available to them. “I may look crooked and out of style, but I greet the world with a grand old smile”, Robert Huddleston, The Pony Boy.
Pre-event ticket purchase is $8.00, or $10.00 at the door, and includes snacks and a beverage. Seating is limited, please call ahead to reserve your seat at 608-356-4229.