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The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

Passed | | Drama, Romance | 29 December 1939 (USA)
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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:

BIG beyond words!...Wondrous beyond belief!...Magnificent beyond compare! (Title lobby card). 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

Well aware of the war raging in Europe, Charles Laughton chose a lull in the day's shooting to recite, in full Quasimodo costume, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, as he had done in Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). As in the previous film, it stunned the cast and crew for the rest of the shooting day. See more »

Goofs

The film opens in Paris during the Feast of Fools. In medieval France, the Feast of Fools took place on January 1st, yet the film isn't set in the wintertime. See more »

Quotes

Quasimodo, the bell-ringer: [holding Esmeralda over his head, to the crowd] Sanctuary! Sanctuary!
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The O.C.: The Shake Up (2007) 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

The peak of art in Hollywood cinema
12 December 2002 | by jeffbertucen@hotmail.comSee all my reviews

A sweeping claim? Perhaps. But despite the presence in Hollywood over sixty subsequent years of Ford, Wyler, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese et al, The Hunchback of Notre Dame remains as fresh, as emotionally resonant and yes as powerfully artistic as the day it was made. What constitutes 'art' is of course a personal matter, just as the Breughel-like compositions of Hunchback might be as mystifying to someone whose favourite film is A Clockwork Orange (Lichtenstein?). But what makes Hunchback so satisfying as art is precisely that its makers didn't set out with art in mind. Dieterle and his co-creators embarked on the project with the aim of telling a great yarn, making it look authentic, and above all ENTERTAINING the audience. It is to this end that the Grand Guignol excesses of the novel were trimmed or altered, and the Hollywood bittersweet ending imposed. Audiences filed out with their Kleenex in hand having witnessed a three-ring circus of a movie, then went home to read the war-soaked newspapers.

Virtually every frame of this movie could be taken in isolation, made into a poster and hung on a wall. Examples include Gringoire cradling the dying Clopin as a rivulet of lead trickles past in the background, the voyeuristic eye of Quasimodo peering through fence palings at the dancing Esmeralda - I could go on and on. And pervading it all is the magnificent score of Alfred Newman, surely his finest ever.

Rather than sing its obvious praises, the film can simply speak for itself. As narrative, as character, as cinema craft, it is totally successful throughout. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is my favourite film of all time, bar none. Ten out of ten


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