The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1923 American film starring Lon Chaney as Quasimodo and Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmeralda, and is directed by Wallace Worsley. The film is the second most famous adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, following the critically acclaimed, much reissued 1939 masterpiece by RKO. The tale was almost unrecognizable in the freely adapted 1996 Disney cartoon version. The film was Universal’s “Super Jewel” of 1923 and was their most successful silent film, grossing over $3 million.
The film is most notable for the grand sets that recall 15th century Paris as well as Lon Chaney’s performance and spectacular make-up as the tortured bell-ringer of Notre Dame. The film elevated Chaney, already a well-known character actor, to full star status in Hollywood. It also helped set a standard for many later horror films, including Chaney’s The Phantom of the Opera in 1925. Today, the film is in the public domain.
Quasimodo is a deformed (deaf and half-blind) bell-ringer of the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Jehan Frollo, the evil brother of the saintly archdeacon Claude Frollo, prevails upon him to kidnap the fair Esmeralda, the adopted daughter of Clopin, who is the king of the oppressed beggars of Paris’ underworld. The dashing Captain Phoebus rescues her from Quasimodo, while Jehan escapes and leaves him. Phoebus is entranced by Esmeralda, and takes her under his wing. Quasimodo is sentenced to be lashed in the public square. As he suffers under the sting of the whip, Esmeralda pities him, and brings him water. Quasimodo later hates Jehan for betraying him. Jehan and Clopin both learn that Phoebus plans to wed Esmeralda. Clopin leads the beggars into the house of Phoebus’ fiance, where Phoebus has brought Esmeralda and disguised her as royalty. Clopin demands Esmeralda be returned, and Phoebus only does so after Esmeralda says that she does not belong with the aristocracy. However, Esmeralda sends him a note, to say goodbye to him a last time. During their meeting in Notre Dame, Jehan stabs and wounds Phoebus and lays the blame on Esmeralda. She is sentenced to death, but is rescued from the gallows by Quasimodo and takes refuge in the cathedral, where Archdeacon Claude invokes the sacred right of sanctuary, protecting her from arrest. Clopin leads the whole of the underworld to storm the cathedral that night, while crafty Jehan attempts to loot the treasure vaults. Quasimodo routs the invaders with rocks and torrents of molten lead, and kills Jehan by throwing him off the ramparts of Notre Dame. Just before he does, however, Jehan fatally stabs Quasimodo in the back with his knife. Phoebus comes to the rescue and encounters Esmeralda. As she and Phoebus clasp each other to their hearts, Quasimodo rings his own death toll. Esmeralda and Phoebus leave without even noticing that Quasimodo is mortally wounded, but Claude enters just in time to see him die. After ringing the bell, Quasimodo dies. The last image of the film is the great bell, swinging silently, holding the corpse of Quasimodo.
Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1939 American monochrome film. It is considered by some reviewers to be the best of the many film versions of Victor Hugo’s classic novel.
This film is very nice, even though its plot differs considerably from that of the novel. Esmeralda and Quasimodo remain alive at the end, unlike in the novel, in which both die. Phoebus, who is only wounded by Frollo in the novel, is killed by him in this film version, and Esmeralda is charged with his murder. Later, at the end of the film, Esmeralda is found not guilty of murder and is free from hanging. She leaves with Gringoire and a huge crowd out of the public square. Quasimodo appears at the upper balcony of the cathedral where he sees them leave, saying to the gargoyles, “Why was I not made of stone, like thee?”.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956 film)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame the 1956 French film version of Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name. The film is the first version of the novel to be made in color.
It stars Mexican actor Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo and Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda. In this movie, Lollobrigida looks more like Carmen than like Esmeralda. Anthony Quinn’s portrayal of the hunchback Quasimodo is more human and less horrific than most other portrayals. Instead of having a huge hump and a hideously deformed face, he only has a small curve in his spine and a slightly deformed face. Alain Cuny’s acting in the role of Dom Claude Frollo is quite good. This is the very first adaptation where it is Frollo the priest that is in love with Esmeralda, and not his brother Jehan, which is a nice progress. The film is the one of the few adaptations to use Victor Hugo’s original ending; although Esmeralda is killed by a stray arrow rather than hanged, a voiceover narration tells us at the end that several years afterward, an excavation group finds the skeletons of Quasimodo and Esmeralda intertwined in an embrace. Esmeralda’s last words were: “Life is wonderful” (“C’est beau, la vie”), which is terribly ironic.
* Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda
* Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo
* Jean Danet as Phoebus de Chateaupers
* Alain Cuny as Claude Frollo
* Robert Hirsch as Pierre Gringoire
* Danielle Dumont as Fleur de Lys
* Philippe Clay as Clopin Trouillefou
* Maurice Sarfati as Jehan Frollo
* Jean Tissier as King Louis XI
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982 film)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (sometimes known as simply Hunchback) is a 1982 British-American TV movie starring Anthony Hopkins, Derek Jacobi, Lesley-Anne Down, and John Gielgud, based on the Victor Hugo novel. It was produced as part of the long-running Hallmark Hall of Fame series.
The ending of the 1982 movie is very different. Not only does Esmeralda survive, but she recognizes Quasimodo‘s kindness toward her and kisses him goodbye before she leaves in safety with the poet Gringoire. Quasimodo also kills Frollo in self-defence by impaling him on a hook in the wall rather than throwing him off of the tower. After Frollo is killed and Gringoire and Esmeralda leave, soldiers pursue him and he plunges to his death from the parapet of Notre Dame, with the word “Why?” on his lips. The film ends without the audience knowing if Esmeralda learns of his death.
Several plot elements not in the novel are borrowed from the 1939 film as well. Not only does Esmeralda survive at the end, but she eventually comes to love Gringoire, and, again as in that film, it is strongly implied that they stay together after he rescues her.