The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923 film)

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923 film).jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Wallace Worsley
Produced by Carl Laemmle
Irving Thalberg
Screenplay by Edward T. Lowe, Jr.
Perley Poore Sheehan
Based on The Hunchback of Notre-Dame 
by Victor Hugo
Starring Lon Chaney
Patsy Ruth Miller
Norman Kerry
Nigel de Brulier
Brandon Hurst
Music by Cecil Copping
Carl Edouarde
Hugo Riesenfeld
Heinz Eric Roemheld
Cinematography Robert Newhard
Tony Kornman
Virgil Miller
Stephen S. Norton
Charles J. Stumar
Edited by Edward Curtiss
Maurice Pivar
Sydney Singerman
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates September 2, 1923
Running time 100 min
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles
Budget $1,250,000 (estimated)
Box office $1.5 million[1][2]
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1923 American 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 over $3 million.

The film is based on Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It is notable for the grand sets that recall 15th century Paris as well as for Chaney's performance and make-up as Quasimodo, tortured bell-ringer of Notre Dame de Paris. The film elevated Chaney, already a well-known character actor, to full star status in Hollywood, and also helped set a standard for many later horror films, including Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera in 1925. In 1951, the film entered the public domain (in the USA) due to the claimants failure to renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.[3]

Plot[edit]

The story is set in 1482 Paris, France.

Quasimodo is a deaf, half-blind, hunchbacked bell-ringer of the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. His master, Jehan Frollo, the evil brother of the saintly archdeacon, Dom Claude Frollo, prevails upon him to kidnap Esmeralda, a dancing gypsy girl and the adopted daughter of Clopin, the king of the oppressed beggars of Paris' underworld. The dashing Captain Phoebus rescues Esmeralda from Quasimodo, while Jehan abandons him and flees. At first seeking a casual romance, Phoebus becomes entranced by Esmeralda, and takes her under his wing.

Quasimodo being offered water by Esmeralda.

Quasimodo is sentenced to be lashed in the public square. After being whipped, he begs for water. Esmeralda pities him, and brings him some. He then later hates Jehan for betraying the hunchback during his capture after abducting Esmeralda.

To their dismay, Jehan and Clopin both learn that Phoebus hopes to marry Esmeralda, despite being engaged to Fleur de Lys. Phoebus persuades Esmeralda to accompany him to a ball celebrating his appointment as Captain of the Guard by King Louis XI. He provides her with rich garments and introduces her to their hostess, Madame de Gondelaurier, as a Princess of Egypt. Clopin, accompanied by his beggars, crashes the festivities and demands Esmeralda be returned. To avoid bloodshed, Esmeralda says that she does not belong with the aristocracy.

Later, however, Esmeralda sends street poet Pierre Gringoire to give Phoebus a note, arranging a rendezvous at Notre Dame to say goodbye to him. There, Jehan stabs Phoebus in the back and lays the blame on Esmeralda. She is tortured into giving a false confession and sentenced to death. However, she is rescued from the gallows by Quasimodo and carried inside the cathedral, where she is granted sanctuary, temporarily protecting her from arrest.

Claude Frollo restrains Quasimodo from violence.

Clopin leads the whole of the underworld to storm the cathedral that night, while Jehan attempts to take Esmeralda, first by guile (telling her that Phoebus's dying wish was for him to take care of her), then by force. Quasimodo holds off the invaders with rocks and torrents of molten lead. Meanwhile, the healed Phoebus is alerted by Gringoire and leads his men against the rabble. When Quasimodo finds Jehan attacking Esmeralda, he throws his master off the ramparts of Notre Dame, but not before being fatally stabbed in the back. Phoebus finds and embraces Esmeralda. Witnessing this, Quasimodo rings his own death toll. The last image is of the great bell, swinging silently above the corpse of Quasimodo.

Cast[edit]

Censorship[edit]

The film didn't want to portray Claude Frollo as he was in the original novel due to him being a Roman Catholic clergyman and the main villain of the story. So, instead of being the villain, he is a good archdeacon, and his brother Jehan (who is a drunkard student and a minor character in the novel) is the main villain of the movie. Also, in order for Jehan to do some of the same bad things that the original Claude does, he was to be portrayed as an older man, and not a young man like he was in the novel. All these changes made for the Frollo brothers later influenced the 1939 remake film version to do the same.

Preservation[edit]

Original prints of the film were on cellulose nitrate film stock and were either worn out, decomposed or were destroyed by the studio (mostly the latter). Original prints were on tinted film stock in various colors, including sunshine, amber, rose, lavender and blue.

The only surviving prints of the film are 16 mm "show-at-home" prints distributed by Universal in the 1920s and 1930s for home-movie purposes, and no original 35mm negatives or prints survive. Most video editions (including public domain releases) of the film are derived from 16 mm duplicate prints that were distributed by Blackhawk Films in the 1960s and 1970s. A DVD release of a newly restored print of the film was released by Image Entertainment on October 9, 2007.

A print of the film is held at Gosfilmofond Russian State Archive, however it is not clear what gauge the print is in, 16mm or 35mm.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ rentals in US and Canada - see Variety list of box office champions for 1923
  2. ^ Quigley Publishing Company "The All Time Best Sellers", International Motion Picture Almanac 1937-38 (1938) p 942 accessed 19 April 2014
  3. ^ Pierce, David (June 2007). "Forgotten Faces: Why Some of Our Cinema Heritage Is Part of the Public Domain". Film History: An International Journal 19 (2): 125–43. doi:10.2979/FIL.2007.19.2.125. ISSN 0892-2160. OCLC 15122313. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 

External links[edit]