Released 9/2/23 by Universal/Super Jewel; Director: Wallace Worsley; Screenplay: Edward T. Lowe, adapted by Perley Poore Sheehan, from Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo; Cinematography: Robert Newhard, with additional photography from Anthony Kornman, Virgil Miller, Charles Stumar, and Stephen S. Norton; Film Editor: Sidney Singerman, Maurice Pivar, and Edward Curtiss; Art Direction: Elmer E. Sheeley and Sidney Ullmann; Photographic Effects: Philip H. Whitman and Friend F. Baker; Lighting Effects: Harry D. Brown and Earl Miller; Art Titles: Fred W. Archer; Wardrobe: Col. Gordon McGee; Continuity: Charlotte Woods; Assistant Directors: Jack Sullivan, James Dugan, and William Wyler; Production Assistants: Edgar Stein, and Albert Conti; Technical Director: Archie Hall; Assistant Art Directors: Stephen Goosson and Charles D. Hall; 12reels (12000'); Print Source: George Eastman House, Film Preservation Associates (see notes below)
CAST: Lon Chaney (Quasimodo), Patsy Ruth Miller (Esmeralda), Norman Kerry (Phoebus), Ernest Torrence (Clopin), Kate Lester (Mme. de Gondelaurier), Brandon Hurst (Jehan), Raymond Hatton (Gringoire), Tully Marshall (Louis XI), Nigel de Brulier (Dom Claude), Edwin N. Wallack (King's Chamberlain), John Cossar (Justice of the Court), Harry L. Von Meter (M. Neufchatel), Gladys Brockwell (Sister Godule), Eulalie Jensen (Marie), Winifred Bryson (Fleur de Lis), Nick de Ruiz (M. le Torteru), W. Ray Myers (Charmolu's Assistant), William Parke Sr. (Josephus), Roy Laidlaw (Charmolu), Robert Korman (Hook-Hand), Harry Holman (Fat Man), John George, Lydia Yeamans Titus, George MacQuarrie, Albert MacQuarrie, Pearl Tupper, Eva Lewis, Jay Hunt, Harrison DeVere, Ethan Laidlaw, Al Ferguson, Jane Sherman, Helen Bruneau, Gladys Johnston, Cesare Gravina, Alex Manuel, Arthur Hurni, Rene Traveletti, Joe Bonomo (double for Chaney)
SYNOPSIS: In Paris, under the reign of Louis XI, the annual Festival of Fools is underway. From atop the mighty Notre Dame cathedral, Quasimodo, a deformed hunchback who rings the bells, looks down on the crowd in contempt. Also in the crowd is Dom Claude, the kindly priest of Notre Dame, and his evil brother, Jehan. Clopin, a gypsy who has been crowned "King of the Beggars," calls for his adopted daughter Esmeralda to dance for the group. As Esmeralda passes by the window of Gudule, the old woman curses her, for years before her daughter had been stolen by gypsies. Esmeralda dances for the crowd, while high above in the palace of Louis XI, Phoebus, a young captain of the guard, admires the pretty girl, though he is betrothed to Fleur de Lis, the niece of Madame de Gondelaurier. That night, Jehan has Quasimodo abduct Esmeralda for him, but Phoebus is on patrol and thwarts the attempt. Phoebus takes Esmeralda out for a late supper and attempts to ensnare her with his charms. She is wearing a necklace given to her by her mother when she was a baby which she says protects her from all evil. Phoebus has a change of heart and decides not to force his attentions on the girl, though she appears to be willing. The Court of Miracles is the hideout for all the beggars of Paris, so named because here the blind see, and the lame walk. Gringoire, a harmless poet, has stumbled into the Court and is about to be hanged by the mob, but Esmeralda intercedes and he is released. Hereafter, Gringoire becomes her faithful servant. Quasimodo is tried for his attack on Esmeralda and is ordered to be lashed for an hour in the public square. He is beaten brutally and at the end of the time, he cries for water. Esmeralda, pitying the poor beast brings him a drink and Quasimodo is forever in her debt. Quasimodo also does not forget how Jehan betrayed him, and he hates him thereafter.
Madame Gondelaurier gives a ball and Phoebus brings Esmeralda, dressed in the finest of clothes, and introduces her as a Princess of Egypt. Clopin has learned that Phoebus has taken Esmeralda as his plaything, and he breaks into the ball demanding her return. To prevent bloodshed, Esmeralda leaves with Clopin, broken hearted. Esmeralda has Gringoire bring a note to Phoebus asking him to meet her one last time at Notre Dame. They meet, and while they are talking in the garden, Jehan stabs Phoebus. Esmeralda is arrested for the crime and is tortured until she confesses. Jehan visits her in prison and tells her he can help her escape, but she spurns him. Esmeralda is being taken to the gallows to be hanged when Gudule attacks her and rips the necklace from her. She sees that the necklace is that which she put on her baby girl and, realizing that Esmeralda is her daughter, collapses and dies. Quasimodo rings the death knell for some poor soul to be hanged, but when he sees that the victim is Esmeralda, he swings down to the pillory on a rope, grabs the girl, and takes her into the cathedral. Though the girl is protected by the laws of sanctuary, Clopin decides that this is the time to rouse his people, and he leads a huge army of beggars to the cathedral to rescue Esmeralda. Quasimodo repulses the attack by tossing stones, logs, and molten lead from the parapets. Phoebus has recovered from the stabbing, and Gringoire tells him that Notre Dame is under attack with Esmeralda inside. He rouses the garrison and leads the soldiers against the beggars. While the masses fight below, Jehan sneaks into the tower and abducts Esmeralda. Quasimodo finds Jehan and attacks him, but Jehan stabs the hunchback just before being tossed from the tower to his death. Phoebus finds Esmeralda and they leave the cathedral as Quasimodo rings the bells for the last time before dying.
"It is the sincere belief of the writer than in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME Director Wallace Worsley has created a motion picture masterpiece that belongs among the ten best ever produced. Possibly, if a serious effort at recapitulation could be made at the moment, it would be ranked among the five best of all time. Certainly it is a masterpiece...Lon Chaney's portrayal of Quasimodo, the hunchback, is superb, not only a marvel of make-up such as is seldom seen upon the screen and stage, but a marvel of sympathetic acting." ---Moving Picture World
"Lon Chaney's remarkable performance as Quasimodo, the grateful hunchback, is, as it should be, easily the outstanding feature. His extraordinary make-up as a veritable living gargoyle reaches the limit of grotesquery (and at moments seems to go a shade beyond it) but his sprawling movements and frantic gestures are brilliantly conceived, and his final dance of frenzy at the defeat of Clopin's rabble is a scene of delirious passion which has seldom been equalled on the screen." ---Bioscope
"THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is a two-hour nightmare. It's murderous, hideous and repulsive...Hugo's tale is immortal; Laemmle's picture is fragile as a film house commodity...[The film] is misery all of the time, nothing but misery, tiresome, loathsome misery that doesn't make you feel any the better for it." ---Variety
"Naturally there is much in this picture which is not pleasant...It is, however, a strong production, on which no pains or money have been spared to depict the seamy side of old Paris...It is a drama which will appeal to all those who are interested in fine screen acting, artistic settings and a remarkable handling of crowds who don't mind a grotesque figure and a grim atmosphere...Chaney throws his whole soul into making Quasimodo as repugnant as anything human could very well be, even to decorating his breast and back with hair" ---The New York Times
NOTES: At a production cost of $1,250,000, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME was the most expensive picture in Chaney's career. Shooting began in December of 1922, and was completed in June of 1923, the longest production schedule of any Chaney film. The centerpiece of the production was an elaborate recreation of the lower half of Notre Dame cathedral. The towers and upper part of the cathedral were done by a hanging miniature. Chaney received $2,500 a week for his work on the film.
For further information on this landmark film, readers are encouraged to look up the superb article by George Turner in the June, 1985 American Cinematographer, which provided many of the obscure cast and technical credits listed above. Another source of information is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Philip Riley, the second half of a two-part book by Patsy Ruth Miller titled My Hollywood, When Both Of Us Were Young (O'Raghailligh Ltd. Publishers)
There are apparently no surviving 35mm prints of the film. It exists only because Universal released it as a 16mm Show-at-Home Library print in the 1920s, and all extant prints derive from these 16mm prints which are missing approximately 15-20 minutes of footage.
Also, check out this poster and insert card in my Poster Gallery and this souvenir program bookletand stereo photos on my Memorabilia Page.
© 1998,2005,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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