A famous pinhead

Recently arrived: a dvd of Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932), now a cult horror classic (which I’d previously seen on tv as a late-night movie). Cover art:

From the Wikipedia page on the movie:

Director Browning took the exceptional step of casting real people with deformities as the eponymous sideshow “freaks,” rather than using costumes and makeup.

… In the film, the physically deformed “freaks” are inherently trusting and honorable people, while the real monsters are two of the “normal” members of the circus who conspire to murder one of the performers to obtain his large inheritance.

And the freaks exact their revenge.

Among the freaks is a microcephalic called Schlitzie, in the center in the cover art, and in a photo here:

Schlitzie was possibly born Simon Metz, in the 1890s or early 1900s, and died (then under the name Schlitzie Surtees) in 1971. His parents hid him from the world in shame until they could sell him to a traveling sideshow, and he spent most of his life in sideshows, circuses, funhouses, and carnivals, exhibited in a muumuu and presented as a female (or left androgynous), and billed variously as a Pinhead, The Missing Link, the Last of the Aztecs, the Monkey Girl, or What Is It? In Freaks, Schlitzie and two other microcephalics are referred to as pinheads. (The connection to Zippy the Pinhead is pretty clear.)

Schlitzie’s complex life story is summarized in his Wikipedia entry. Child-like and affectionate (sometimes described as a charming three-year-old), he found a home for himself in the circus.


8 Responses to “A famous pinhead”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    Is that the face of A. Hitler to the top right of the poster?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Well no, that’s Peter Robinson, The Human Skeleton. Though the resemblance in the poster is striking.

    • H. R. Freckenhorst Says:

      The text at the beginning of Freaks mentions famous freaks in history, including Tom Thumb and Kaiser Wilhem II. The inclusion of the emperor surprised me when I first saw the movie in the late ’60s, but I discovered a little later that he had an atrophied arm.

  2. Pancake Circus « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « A famous pinhead […]

  3. Zippy and Schlitzie « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] and Schlitzie By arnold zwicky Following up on my posting about the pinhead (microcephalic) Schlitzie in the film Freaks, Tim Wilson noted on Facebook that […]

  4. Horror movies « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] and  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Plus the 1932 Tod Browning film Freaks, which I blogged about here. All concerned with transformation, the boundaries of humanity, and the perils of science and […]

  5. Schlitzie again | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] and Schlitzie”, and I told the story (in connection with Tod Browning’s Freaks) in “A Famous Pinhead”. It has an obvious resonance for […]

  6. Schlitzie one more time | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] and Schlitzie” (2011) – and I told the story (in connection with Tod Browning’s Freaks) in “A Famous Pinhead”. It has an obvious resonance for […]

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