The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939 film)

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame
1939-The-Hunchback-of-Notre-Dame.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by William Dieterle
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay by Sonya Levien
Bruno Frank (adaptation)
Based on The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
by Victor Hugo
Starring Charles Laughton
Sir Cedric Hardwicke
Thomas Mitchell
Maureen O'Hara
Edmond O'Brien
Alan Marshal
Walter Hampden
Music by Alfred Newman
(musical adaptation and original composition)
Cinematography Joseph H. August A.S.C.
Edited by William Hamilton
Robert Wise
Production
company
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • December 29, 1939 (1939-12-29) [1]
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1,826,000 [2]
Box office$3,155,000 [2]

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1939 American romantic drama film starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara. [3] [1] Directed by William Dieterle and produced by Pandro S. Berman, the film is based on Victor Hugo's 1831 novel.

Contents

Plot

Prologue

"With the end of the 15th century, the Middle Ages came to a close. Europe began to see great changes. France, ravaged by a hundred years of war, at last found peace. The people under Louis XI felt free to hope again ~ to dream of progress. But superstition and prejudice often stood in the way, seeking to crush the adventurous spirit of man."

Plot

In Paris during the late Middle Ages, Louis XI, the King of France, and his Chief Justice of Paris, Jean Frollo, visit a printing shop. Frollo is determined to do everything in his power to protect Paris from anything he sees as evil, including the printing press and gypsies, who at the time are persecuted and prohibited from entering Paris without a permit. That day is Paris' annual celebration, the Feast of Fools. Pierre Gringoire, a poor street poet, does a play in front of an audience until it is interrupted by Clopin, the King of the Beggars. Esmeralda, a young gypsy girl, is seen dancing in front of an audience of people. Quasimodo, the hunchback and bell ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral, is crowned the King of Fools until Frollo catches up to him and takes him back to the church.

While trying to find Louis to speak to him, Esmeralda is caught by a guard for entering Paris without a permit and is being chased after by a couple of soldiers until she seeks safety in Notre Dame, in which the Archbishop of Paris (Frollo's brother Claude) protects her. She prays to the Virgin Mary to help her fellow gypsies only to be confronted by Frollo, who accuses her of being a heathen. Afterwards, she asks Louis to help her people, to which he agrees. Frollo then takes her up to the bell tower where they encounter Quasimodo, of whom she is frightened. As she runs away from the hunchback, Frollo commands Quasimodo to chase after her and kidnap her. Gringoire witnesses all this, and calls out to Captain Phoebus and his guards, who capture Quasimodo just in time and saves Esmeralda. She starts falling in love with Phoebus, but later marries and saves Gringoire from being hanged in the the Court of Miracles. Shortly after, Frollo orders the guards to arrest and round up the gypsy girls to make an inspection in an attempt to find Esmeralda.

Quasimodo is sentenced to be lashed in the square and publicly humiliated afterwards. He then asks the Parisian townspeople for water. Frollo, seeing this, realizes that he can't stop the sentence in time because it already happened, and abandons Quasimodo instead of helping him. However, Esmeralda arrives and gives Quasimodo water, and this awakens the hunchback's love for her.

Later that night, Esmeralda is invited by the nobles to their party where she dances with a black goat named Aristotle, but shortly after Frollo shows up to the party and he confesses to Esmeralda his lust for her in a hiding place. Afterwards, she and Phoebus go to a garden where they share a moment between each other, which ends up in Frollo killing Phoebus out of jealousy, and Esmeralda being wrongly accused of his death. Frollo arrives at Notre Dame where he confesses the crime to his brother, and, knowing that the Archbishop refuses to help him because he is the murderer, intends to sentence Esmeralda to death for it (which he does), saying that she has "bewitched" him.

Gringoire tries to get Esmeralda free by writing an appeal and claims Esmeralda's innocence during her trial, but fails. After Esmeralda is forced under torture to confess Phoebus's murder, Louis shows up to the courtroom and attempts to help Esmeralda by offering her a trial by ordeal, telling her to choose one of two daggers: her own dagger or Louis's dagger. When Esmeralda chose her dagger, Frollo sentences her to be hanged in the gallows. As Esmeralda is being taken in front of Notre Dame to do public penance, the Archbishop claims her innocence and does not allow her to do penance; however, Frollo still orders Esmeralda to be hanged in the gallows. Just as she is about to be hanged, though, Quasimodo saves her by taking her to the cathedral.

When Gringoire and Clopin realize that the nobles are planning to revoke Notre Dame's right of sanctuary, they both try different methods in order to save Esmeralda from hanging: Gringoire writes a pamphlet, and Clopin leads the beggars to storm the cathedral. At the Palace of Justice, Louis realizes that the pamphlet is creating public opinion, which can influence kings to make decisions. The Archbishop arrives to inform Louis of Notre Dame's attack and that Esmeralda is innocent, Louis demands to know who the real murderer is, to which Frollo confesses his crime to Louis and walks away, leaving Louis shocked. Louis orders Olivier to arrest Frollo and then talks to Gringoire after reading his pamphlet.

Meanwhile, Quasimodo and the guards of Paris fight off Clopin and the beggars. Afterwards, he sees Frollo in the bell tower seeking to harm Esmeralda, and when he comes up, Frollo tries to stop him. Frollo then attempts to kill Quasimodo with a dagger, but Quasimodo, realizing Frollo's evil nature, stops him and in defense for himself and Esmeralda he throws Frollo off the cathedral top, sending him down to his death. Later that morning, Esmeralda is pardoned by the King and freed from hanging due to the success of Gringoire's pamphlet. Her Gypsy people are also finally freed. Then, she comes to truly love Gringoire and leaves with him and a huge cheering crowd out of the public square. Quasimodo sees all this from high on the cathedral and says sadly to a gargoyle, "Why was I not made of stone, like thee?".

Cast

Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda Maureen O'Hara as Esmerelda 2.jpg
Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda

Production

In 1932, it was reported by The Hollywood Reporter that Universal announced that it would remake the 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame film with John Huston writing a script and that Boris Karloff would play Quasimodo. [4]

Irving Thalberg, who was an uncredited producer in the 1923 film, considered remaking the film in 1934 and even discussed the idea with Charles Laughton. Two years later, Universal regained interest in a remake, with a fan poll being instrumental in influencing the studio to make the film. Ronald Colman, Paul Muni, Fredric March, Lionel Barrymore and Peter Lorre were the choices in the poll and in the end, Universal decided to go with Lorre, even as far as negotiating with the actor to star in the film, but the project never materialized.

A year later, Carl Laemmle, Jr. persuaded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to buy the property from Universal as a star-vehicle for Muni. Metro refused and sold the rights to RKO, with Pandro S. Berman producing and William Dieterle directing. [5]

For this production, RKO Radio Pictures built on their movie ranch a massive medieval city of Paris and Notre Dame Cathedral in the San Fernando Valley. [6] This was one of the largest and most extravagant sets ever constructed.

Screenwriter Sonya Levien, who was entrusted to translate Hugo's novel into this film, made the story relevant to the events of the time the film was made: she made the obvious parallel between Paris' persecution of the gypsies and Germany's treatment of the Jews prior to World War II. [6]

Casting

After hearing the news that RKO was going to remake the 1923 film, Lon Chaney, Jr. sought to play the role of Quasimodo and screen-tested for the studio. While the studio felt that Chaney gave excellent performances in his numerous screen tests, other actors would be more suitable for the part, Orson Welles being one of the many considered. Laughton was set to star as Quasimodo, but RKO offered Chaney the role when it seemed like the British actor would be unable to work in America due to troubles with the IRS. Laughton managed to overcome his problems and got the part. [7]

Pleased with her work on Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn , Laughton brought a then 18-year old Maureen O'Hara to Hollywood to play Esmeralda. This marked O'Hara's American screen debut. [6] According to actress Kathryn Adams, she was supposed to play Esmeralda, but lost the role to O'Hara when Laughton cabled from Ireland to Hollywood that he was "bringing Esmeralda". Adams played a companion of Fleur as compensation for losing the role. [8]

Dieterle wanted Claude Rains to play Frollo, but before he agreed to play the part, he had an unexpected encounter with Laughton on the Universal lot in which Laughton was very condescending. Rains, who had mentored Laughton and John Gielgud at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, later remarked that their encounter at the lot was the end of their relationship and refused to play the role, which would be played by Cedric Hardwicke. [9]

Filming

With a budget of $1.8 million, Hunchback proved to be one of the most expensive movies ever made by the studio. It was shot at the RKO Encino Ranch, with the interiors of the bell tower being shot at the Mudd Hall of Philosophy at the University of Southern California.

The sets of Paris and the Notre Dame Cathedral were constructed by Van Nest Polglase at the cost of $250,000 (about $4,500,000 in 2019 dollars), while Darrell Silvera worked as set decorator. Walter Plunkett oversaw the costume design and Joseph H. August served as cinematographer, this film being the first of his three collaborations with Dieterle.

Filming proved to be difficult for the cast and crew due to the hot temperatures, particularly for Laughton, who had to act with a lot of makeup. In her autobiography, O'Hara recalls one day arriving on the set and finding chimpanzees, baboons and gorillas. Dieterle wanted monks to be on the set but his assistant mistakenly thought he wanted monkeys because of his poor English and thick German accent.

Makeup artist Perc Westmore was loaned by Warner Bros. to RKO for the production. Westmore and Laughton did not get along. Though Westmore wanted to use sponge rubber to make a light appliance for Laughton to wear, Laughton wanted a heavy one to help him stay in character. Laughton was offended when Westmore suggested he try acting like the hump was heavy and was rude and dismissive to Westmore throughout filming. Near the end of the shoot, Westmore called his younger brother to the studio, where he witnessed Westmore, while strapping on the hump, spray Laughton in the face with a seltzer bottle full of quinine water and then kick him in the posterior. Westmore told Laughton, "That's for all the grief you gave me" and added that his brother was a witness and would deny anything Laughton said about the incident. [10]

When Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany on September 1, most of the cast and crew was in a state of fear of what was going to happen. Laughton lightened the mood by reciting the Gettysburg Address (that he had recited in Ruggles of Red Gap ). Another incident of emotional filming was the filming of the scene where Quasimodo rings the bells in the tower of the cathedral for Esmeralda. Feeling in pain because his native Britain had declared war on Germany, Laughton rang the bells over and over again until he fell down from exhaustion, overwhelming the crew with emotion. [11]

Censorship

The characters of Claude Frollo and Jehan Frollo are changed from the novel, as was done in the 1923 film. Such changes were made because the filmmakers were concerned that portraying the priest as a villain would violate the policy of the Hays Production Code. [12] In the novel Claude is depicted as the villainous 36-year-old Archdeacon of Notre Dame; in the film he is the good character and much older in age. His younger brother Jehan, who in the novel is a teenaged drunken student and a juvenile delinquent, is in the film a middle-aged villain who is Paris' chief justice and a close advisor to King Louis XI.

Award nominations

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: [13]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Reception

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 93% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 14 reviews, with an average rating of 8.65/10. [14] Variety called the film a "super thriller-chiller" but found that the elaborate sets tended to overwhelm the story, particularly in the first half. [3] Harrison's Reports wrote, "Very good! Audiences should be thrilled anew by this lavish remake of Victor Hugo's famous novel." [1] Film Daily called it "compelling, dynamic entertainment." [15] John Mosher of The New Yorker wrote that Laughton "achieves something like a tour de force. The lines themselves (such modernisms as 'to buy protection'), along with a perfunctory plot arrangement, are among the weak features of the film, which otherwise is a vivid pictorial drama of fifteenth-century Paris." [16] E. H. Harvey of The Harvard Crimson said that the film "in all is more than entertaining." He said that "the mediocre effects offer a forceful contrast to the great moments" in the film. [17] However, Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times wrote a mostly negative review of the film, finding it "little more" than "a freak show". Though he acknowledged it was "handsome enough of production and its cast is expert," he called it "almost unrelievedly brutal and without the saving grace of unreality which makes Frankenstein's horrors a little comic." [18]

The movie was very popular, earning $1,549,000 in the United States and Canada and $1,646,000 elsewhere, but because of its cost only made a profit of $100,000. [2]

Home media

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was released on DVD in Region 1 on September 21, 2001 by Image Entertainment. It was issued on Blu-ray in Region A by Warner Home Video on June 9, 2015.

Related Research Articles

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Quasimodo Character in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

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Clopin Trouillefou is a fictional character first created in the 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by French author Victor Hugo, and subsequently adapted.

Pierre Gringore[pjɛːʁ ɡʁɛ̃ˈɡɔʁ] was a popular French poet and playwright.

<i>The Hunchback of Notre Dame</i> (1923 film) 1923 film

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1923 American drama film starring Lon Chaney, directed by Wallace Worsley, and produced by Carl Laemmle and Irving Thalberg. The supporting cast includes Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry, Nigel de Brulier, and Brandon Hurst. The film was Universal's "Super Jewel" of 1923 and was their most successful silent film, grossing $3.5 million.

Claude Frollo Fictional character

MonseigneurClaude Frollo is a fictional character and the main antagonist of Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. He is the Archdeacon of Notre Dame.

<i>Notre-Dame de Paris</i> (musical)

Notre-Dame de Paris is a sung-through French musical which debuted on 16 September 1998 in Paris. It is based upon the novel Notre-Dame de Paris by the French novelist Victor Hugo. The music was composed by Riccardo Cocciante and the lyrics are by Luc Plamondon.

<i>The Hunchback of Notre Dame</i> (1956 film) 1956 film directed by Jean Delannoy

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1956 French-Italian CinemaScope film version of Victor Hugo's 1831 novel, directed by Jean Delannoy and produced by Raymond Hakim and Robert Hakim. It stars American actor Anthony Quinn and Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida. The film is the first version of the novel to be made in color.

<i>The Hunchback of Notre Dame II</i> 2002 American film directed by Bradley Raymond

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II is a 2002 American animated musical film directed by Bradley Raymond. The direct-to-video sequel to the 1996 Disney film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the film was produced by Walt Disney Animation Japan and Walt Disney Television Animation. Critical reception was generally negative.

La Esmeralda is a ballet in three acts and five scenes, inspired by the 1831 novel Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, originally choreographed by Jules Perrot to music by Cesare Pugni, with sets by William Grieve and costumes by Mme. Copère.

Esmeralda (<i>The Hunchback of Notre-Dame</i>)

Esmeralda, born Agnès, is a fictional character in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. She is a French Roma girl. She constantly attracts men with her seductive dances, and is rarely seen without her clever goat Djali. She is around 16 years old and has a kind and generous heart.

CapitainePhœbus de Châteaupers[febys də ʃɑtopɛːʁ] is a fictional character and one of the main antagonists in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel, Notre-Dame de Paris. He is the Captain of the King Louis XI's Archers. His name comes from Phoebus, the Greek god of the sun.

<i>The Hunchback</i> (1997 film) 1997 television film by Peter Medak

The Hunchback is a 1997 made-for-television romantic drama film based on Victor Hugo's iconic 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, directed by Peter Medak and produced by Stephane Reichel. It stars Richard Harris as Claude Frollo, Salma Hayek as Esmeralda and Mandy Patinkin as Quasimodo, the titular hunchback of Notre Dame.

<i>The Hunchback of Notre Dame</i> (1911 film) 1911 French film directed by Albert Capellani

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a 1911 French silent film directed by Albert Capellani and produced by Pathé Frères. It was released under the name Notre-Dame de Paris. It starred Henry Krauss and Stacia Napierkowska. The film was based on the 1831 Victor Hugo novel of the same name. Considering the film's brief running time, critic Christopher Workman considered it "remarkably faithful to its source material" but it "contains no discernible humor, unlike most other horror films of the period, and thus represents a bellwether of sorts for the genre....(Henry Krauss as Quasimodo) "looks remarkably like Charles Ogle in (Thomas) Edison's 1910 Frankenstein."

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a British feature length adaptation of the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo, produced for television by the BBC in 1976 and aired on December 30th the same year. Directed by Alan Cooke and written by Robert Muller, the film stars Kenneth Haigh as Claude Frollo, Warren Clarke as Quasimodo and Michelle Newell as Esmeralda, and features the visual effects by Ian Scoones and the original music by Wilfred Josephs.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1986 Australian/American fantasy animated film and an adaptation of the 1831 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo.

<i>La Esmeralda</i> (opera)

La Esmeralda is a grand opera in four acts composed by Louise Bertin. The libretto was written by Victor Hugo, who had adapted it from his 1831 novel Notre-Dame de Paris. The opera premiered at the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique in Paris on 14 November 1836 with Cornélie Falcon in the title role. Despite the lavish production, the premiere was a failure, and La Esmeralda proved to be the last opera composed by Bertin, although she lived for another 40 years.

Miss Esmeralda is a Victorian burlesque, in two acts, with music by Meyer Lutz and Robert Martin and a libretto by Fred Leslie, under his pseudonym "A. C. Torr", and Horace Mills. It is based on Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris.

<i>Esmeralda</i> (opera)

Esmeralda is an opera in four acts composed by Arthur Goring Thomas to an English-language libretto by Theo Marzials and Alberto Randegger based on Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It premiered in London on 26 March 1883 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane with Georgina Burns in the title role and Barton McGuckin as her lover, Phoebus.

References

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  11. O'Hara, Maureen (2004). Tis Herself: An Autobiography. Simon & Schuster. p. 40. ISBN   978-0-7432-6916-2.
  12. Pfeiffer, Lee (April 18, 2014). "The Hunchback of Notre Dame - film by Dieterle [1939]". Encyclopædia Britannica .
  13. "The 12th Academy Awards (1940) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  14. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  15. "Reviews of the New Films". Film Daily . New York: 4. December 15, 1939. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
  16. Mosher, John (December 30, 1939). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker . New York. p. 51.
  17. Harvey, E. H. (December 16, 1953). "The Hunchback of Notre Dame]". The Harvard Crimson . Retrieved August 17, 2020.
  18. Nugent, Frank S. (January 1, 1940). "Movie Review - The Hunchback of Notre Dame" . The New York Times . Retrieved September 18, 2015.