Today is the birthday of Frances O’Connor (1914-1982).
Born without arms (or even stumps), O’Connor developed the ability to perform most ordinary everyday tasks with her feet: cut up her food with fork and knife and eat it; drink from a cup; smoke a cigarette, etc. In addition to her dexterity she also possessed natural beauty and a winning personality, which combined to make her a shoe-in for show business. With her mother as manager she began working in circus sideshows billed as “the Living Venus de Milo”, first for Al G. Barnes, and then for Ringling Brothers, where she was to remain for over two decades. What she is best known for today however is her memorable turn in Tod Browning’s 1932 movie Freaks, in which she appears in several scenes, speaking a few lines and demonstrating her skills. She retired from show business in the mid 1940s and lived out the rest of her life in retirement.
To learn more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc