Tod Browning was from my home town (Louisville, KY). He also directed the original Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, but for some reason not many people are aware of that.
I remember reading in a book back in my teens (don't even think of asking me to remember the title) where it was mentioned that the nation was completely shocked when the film was released. So shocked in fact that universal pulled the movie after less than two weeks in the theaters (IIRC) and for a long time Browning was all but blacklisted, and only made a handful of films after that.
One anecdote I recall is when Browning took all the "freaks" to the Universal commissary. All these big stars of the day and producers and other directors were completely aghast. But the "freaks" themselves ate it up. They were starring in a movie, what did they care? The same thing happened with the freaks in the movie The Sentinel (1977); cast and crew alike were completely disgusted by them but director Michael Winner didn't care. He's said they were all wonderful people who, like the deformities in freaked, loved the attention and were just thrilled to be appearing in a movie.