As a child in Louisville, Kentucky, performed in and produced amateur theatricals
At age 16, joined the Manhattan Fair and Carnival Company; changed first name to Tod
Billed as "The Living Corpse" in one carnival act; would be buried alive for up to two days at a time
Briefly appeared as a clown with the Ringling Brothers Circus
Performed in vaudeville as a contortionist and clown as well as a singer and dancer and a comic, the latter in partnership with several other performers including Charles Murray; traveled throughout the world
Introduced to D W Griffith by former partner Charles Murray; joined Biograph Studios as a performer
Feature acting debut, had bit role as an undertaker in "Scenting a Terrible Crime", directed by Griffith
Moved to Hollywood with Griffith
Began directing career, helming two-reel shorts like "The Living Death" and "The Lucky Transfer"
Involved in an automobile accident while driving drunk that resulted in the death of comic Elmer Booth, a passenger in the car (June 17)
Was an assistant director to D.W. Griffith on "Intolerance"; also acted in the film
Wrote and directed the comedy short, "The Mystery of the Leaping Fish"
Feature film directing debut, the Civil War romance "Jim Bludso"; co-directed with star Wilfred Lucas
Helmed several films for Metro, many with Edith Storey as star
Began directing for Bluebird Photoplays; later joined Universal by year's end
Initiated collaboration with actress Priscilla Dean with "Which Woman" and "The Brazen Beauty"
Received screenplay credit for "Set Free"; also directed
First collaboration with Lon Chaney, "The Wicked Darling", starring Priscilla Dean
Last film under Universal contract, "White Tiger"
Struggled with alcoholism for roughly two years
Career turned around after directing "The Unholy Three" for MGM; film starred Chaney, Victor McLaglen and Harry Earles
Helmed "The Black Bird", starring Chaney
Clashed with studio heads over "The Show", featuring John Gilbert and Chaney; dark subject matter (a circus sideshow) offended many critics
Last collaboration with Chaney, "Where East Is East"; also last silent film
First sound film, "The Thirteenth Chair"; also released as a silent; first film with Bela Lugosi
Loaned out to Universal
Directed, "Dracula" (for Universal); director's first choice for part was Chaney who was too ill to work; title role eventually played by Bela Lugosi who had originated it on Broadway
Status at MGM lessened after the box-office failure of "Freaks"; studio cut 20 minutes after a disastrous preview; contemporary critics and audiences dismissed film; banned from screenings in Great Britain until 1962
Reteamed with John Gilbert on "Fast Workers", a drama about construction workers that proved a flop
Directed the intriguing "The Devil Doll"
Last film, "Miracles for Sale"
Formally retired from filmmaking
Received screen credit for the story for "Inside Job"
Developed throat cancer in the 1950s and underwent an operation on his tongue