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The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

Passed | | Drama, Romance | 29 December 1939 (USA)
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1:54 | Trailer
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.

Director:

William Dieterle

Writers:

Sonya Levien (screen play), Bruno Frank (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Charles Laughton ... The Hunchback Quasimodo
Cedric Hardwicke ... Frollo (as Sir Cedric Hardwicke)
Thomas Mitchell ... Clopin
Maureen O'Hara ... Esmeralda
Edmond O'Brien ... Gringoire
Alan Marshal ... Phoebus
Walter Hampden ... Archdeacon
Harry Davenport ... King Louis XI
Katharine Alexander ... Madame de Lys
George Zucco ... Procurator
Fritz Leiber ... Old Nobleman
Etienne Girardot ... Doctor
Helene Reynolds ... Fleur de Lys (as Helene Whitney)
Minna Gombell ... Queen of Beggars (as Mina Gombell)
Arthur Hohl ... Olivier
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Storyline

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 Quasimodo to catch her. Quasimodo, with the girl, is captured by Phoebus, Captain of the Guards, who frees the girl. The courts sentence Quasimodo 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, Esmeralda's husband; and Quasimodo, the bellringer, all try different ways to save her from the gallows. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Impact ! Power ! Pathos ! Drama ! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

29 December 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

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

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,800,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Turner library print) (copyright length)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie was filmed during one of the hottest summers up to that time, with temperatures regularly topping 100 degrees as Charles Laughton labored under the heavy makeup and costume. It was so hot at night that he had to sleep in wet sheets to keep cool, and the moisture usually evaporated within minutes. On top of that, he had to be at the studio by 4 a.m. each day to get into the makeup. See more »

Goofs

While examining the new invention of a printing press, the king is grasping a pendant around his neck. A moment later, his hands are down. See more »

Quotes

Louis XI, King of France: The cathedrals are the handwriting of the past. The press is of our time - and I won't do anything to stop it, Frollo.
Frollo: We must break the best and hang the principal. Between them they will destroy our old and holy order.
Louis XI, King of France: I am not such a fool.
Frollo: I for my part will protect France from these printed books as I will protect it from witches, sorcerers and gypsies - the foreign races over-running all of Europe.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Darkman (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A Fine Adaptation With Laughton, O'Hara, & More
5 October 2004 | by Snow LeopardSee all my reviews

Charles Laughton's boisterous portrayal of Quasimodo and Maureen O'Hara's charm as Esmerelda are two of the things that make this version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" a fine production that still works very well. Most of the versions of the story have been at least watchable, because the Victor Hugo novel provides so much good material to work with, much of it well-suited for cinema. This adaptation, though, is one of the best at making good use of what it offers.

It's interesting to compare this picture with the 1923 Lon Chaney version - not for the sake of ranking them, since both are fully worthy of attention in their own right, but because they offer somewhat different strengths, and because they emphasize somewhat different aspects of the story.

Chaney and Laughton are both quite effective as Quasimodo, each giving an interpretation of the character that corresponds to the actor's skills. Laughton brings out Quasimodo's feelings and perspective quite well. In this version, for example, the flogging scene is longer and more detailed, and it is one of Laughton's most effective scenes. Chaney is particularly good at reacting to the other characters and their actions. Both give the character a distinctive and memorable look.

O'Hara is also one of this adaptation's strengths. Patsy Ruth Miller was good in the Chaney version, but O'Hara has the advantage of spoken dialogue, and she makes the character of Esmerelda her own.

While the Chaney version especially emphasized the atmosphere, this one has quite a bit of action. The tumultuous climactic sequences are done quite well, and they leave a vivid impression. Overall, this is a very satisfying adaptation of the fine classic novel.


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