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The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  29 December 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 7,547 users  
Reviews: 76 user | 44 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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Title: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

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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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Impact ! Power ! Pathos ! Drama ! See more »


Drama | 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?


This was RKO's last release for 1939 (and second costliest in its history, next to Gunga Din (1939)). Although it premiered about the same time as Gone with the Wind (1939), it held its own at the box office, grossing an impressive $3.155 million. See more »


After Quasimodo dumps the molten metal on the crowd below him, he sits on the wall with the sky in the background. Creases in the painted backdrop are clearly visible, as well as the backdrop fabric. See more »


Quasimodo, the bell-ringer: I never realized till now how ugly I am, because you're so beautiful... I'm not a man! I'm not a beast! I'm about as shapeless as the man in the moon! I'm deaf, you know, but you can speak to me by signs.
Esmeralda: Why did you save me?
Quasimodo, the bell-ringer: You ask me why I saved you? Oh, I tried to carry you off, and the next day you gave me a drink of water and little pity.
See more »


Referenced in The Secrets of Dick Smith (1991) 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

One of the best Hollywood movies ever
7 February 2003 | by See all my reviews

This was my favorite movie as a kid, from the first time I saw it on TV in the third grade. The look and the atmosphere of it have lodged ineradicably in a corner of my mind ever since, and the rescue of Esmeralda from the gibbet was and probably still is my favorite scene in a Hollywood movie. I never got to see the movie theatrically until a few years ago, when Disney hosted a showing as an excuse to preview clips of its animated version (which is based on this movie more than on the novel). The movie probably played as strongly then as it had fifty years earlier, and I have no doubt it will play the same in another fifty years. Seeing it with an audience made me realize for the first time that it is Sir Cedric Hardwicke's movie, rather than Laughton's. He dominates the story, and commands the screen whenever he appears. Since the Hays Office prohibited showing a lubricious priest, the writers did something clever: they changed the character into Javert from Hugo's "Les Miserables," here promoted to chief prosecutor, and a hypocritically high-minded celibate: as Esmeralda puts it, he seems like a priest without being one. Hardwicke's performance is superbly subtle, and his character must be one of the most intimately despicable movie villains of all time. Laughton is terrific. too; his cadences on lines like "She gave me a drink of water" are classic. (When Mandy Patinkin played the part, he himself admitted that he was simply replaying Laughton's score and hoping he'd be able to hit all the notes.) As for Maureen O'Hara, if I came across a gypsy dancer like her I'd be moved to swing into the square and rescue her myself. And how can anyone not like Thomas Mitchell's beggar king? The only substantial fault in the playing, I think, is Harry Davenport's characterization of Louis XI, which is funny but more broadly written and played than what surrounds it.

Strangely, although this is more a horror film than the other versions of the novel and contains many frightening scenes, I never thought of it as belonging to that genre and I still don't. It's much more than that. I knew someone who called it Hollywood's finest hour; he can't have been far wrong.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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The Hunchback rokrox
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If they remade it without all the liberties... GW1988
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What is poured onto the villagers at the end? nccomet
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