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The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Horror, Romance  |  29 December 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 7,739 users  
Reviews: 76 user | 45 critic

In 15th century France, a gypsy girl is framed for murder by the infatuated Chief Justice, and only the deformed bellringer of Notre Dame Cathedral can save her.



(screen play), (adaptation), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frollo (as Sir Cedric Hardwicke)
Alan Marshal ...
Walter Hampden ...
Katharine Alexander ...
Madame de Lys
George Zucco ...
Fritz Leiber ...
Old Nobleman
Etienne Girardot ...
Helene Reynolds ...
Fleur de Lys (as Helene Whitney)
Minna Gombell ...
Queen of Beggars (as Mina Gombell)
Arthur Hohl ...


King Louis XI is a wise and old king and Frollo is the Chief Justice. Frollo gazes on the gypsy girl, Esmeralda, in the church during Fool's Day and sends Quasimoto to catch her. Quasimoto, with the girl, is captured by Phoebus, Captain of the Guards, who frees the girl. The courts sentence Quasimoto to be flogged, and the only one who will give him water while he is tied in the square is Esmeralda. Later, at a party of nobles, Esmeralda again meets both Frollo, who is bewitched by her, and Phoebus. When Phoebus is stabbed to death, Esmeralda is accused of the murder, convicted by the court and sentenced to hang. Clopin, King of the Beggars, Gringoire the Husband of Esmeralda, and Quasimoto, the bellringer, all try different ways to save her from the gallows. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


IMPACT! POWER! FIRE! PATHOS! DRAMA! (original print ad - all caps) See more »


Drama | Horror | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

29 December 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Victor Hugo's Immortal Classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,800,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print) (copyright length)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


For the scene in which Quasimodo is whipped, Charles Laughton instructed an assistant director to twist his ankle outside of camera range so he would really be in pain. Even through the heavy hump and rubber body suit, he felt every lash and often came home badly bruised. Before the 16th take, William Dieterle whispered to him, "Now, Charles, listen to me. Let's do it one more time, but this time I want you...I want you to suffer." According to Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester, the actor never forgave him for that. See more »


King Louis XI, a monarch of the 15th century, is addressed as His Majesty. The first monarch to receive the title of Majesty was Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire=Germany in the 16th century. See more »


Quasimodo, the bell-ringer: She gave me water.
See more »


Version of Kampanerang kuba (1974) See more »


Ave Maria
(1572) (uncredited)
Music by Tomás Luis de Victoria
Sung by mixed chorus during opening credits
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Heartbreaking Novel
21 October 2011 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

In the end of Fifteenth Century, in the Feast of Fools in Paris, the deformed bell ringer Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) is elected the King of Fools. The gorgeous gypsy Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara) does not have the necessary permit to stay in Paris and seeks sanctuary in the Notre Dame with the Archbishop of Paris. His brother, the Chief of Justice Frollo (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), has a repressed lust for the gypsy dancer and tries to force Esmeralda to go with him to the tower of the Cathedral. However she flees and Frollo orders Quasimodo to abduct the beautiful youngster.

Quasimodo catches her but she is rescued by Captain Phoebus (Alan Marshal) and feels a crush on him. Quasimodo is arrested and sentenced to be whipped in the square of Notre Dame. When he begs for water, Esmeralda is the only person that gives water to him. Meanwhile Esmeralda helps the poet Gringoire (Edmond O'Brien) that was going to be hanged by the King of the Beggars, accepting to marry Gringoire to save him from the gallows.

Esmeralda flirts with Captain Phoebus in a party and he is stabbed on his back by the jealous Frollo. Esmeralda takes the blame and is sentenced to the gallows. But Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda and brings her to the sanctuary of Notre Dame and expresses his love for the gypsy. Meanwhile a fight of classes between the nobles led by Frollo that want to hang Esmeralda, and the people, led by the beggars, gypsies and poets that want to protect the woman takes place.

"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is one of the cruelest romances of the literature and cinema history in a dark age in France. The author of "Les Misérables", Victor Hugo, writes another heartbreaking novel, describing the fight of classes in the French society in the end of the Middle Ages. In this version of this sad tale of injustice, Charles Laughton is awesome with a memorable performance and Maureen O'Hara is very beautiful in the role of the seductive gypsy. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Corcunda de Notre Dame" ("The Hunchback of Notre Dame")

11 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Who would have made a great Frollo and Quasimodo? smileyking1975
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Film compared to the novel dolce7dolore
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If they remade it without all the liberties... GW1988
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