Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

I visited Paris many years ago.  After attending the 1984 Sons of the Desert convention in London, our small group tacked on a week in Paris.  Our hotel was near the Cathedral of Notre Dame, so we walked there almost every day.  One day, we walked up all those steps to the bell tower and saw the 13 ton bell called Emmanuel, which was rung by Quasimodo.

Which brings us to the movie.  There have been quite a few Hunchback of Notre Dame's made over the years, starting in 1911.  That one starred Henry Krauss (1866 - 1935) and Stacia Napierkowska (1886 - 1945).

Next was Esmeralda in 1922 starring Booth Conway as Quasimodo.  Booth only made 18 movies, all silent.  Sybil Thorndike (1882 - 1976) played the title role.

1923 brought us two Hunchbacks.  One was a British one-reeler.  I don't know how you can tell the story in ten minutes!  There are no details on IMDb about that one.

The other was the big one, starring Lon Chaney (1883 - 1930) and Patsy Ruth Miller (1904 - 1995).

The Chaney version also includes a young Charles Farrell (1900 - 1990) who much later played Vern Albright in "My Little Margie" with Gale Storm (1922 - 1909).  Farrell also made a dozen films with Janet Gaynor (1906 - 1984).  Another actor who was just starting out as an extra in Hunchback is Gilbert Roland (1905 - 1994).  Roland has an impressive list of 142 roles, ending with Barbarosa, a 1982 western starring Willie Nelson (b. 1933) and Gary Busey (b. 1944).

In 1939 The Hunchback of Notre Dame is finally made with sound.  Charles Laughton (1899 - 1962) equals Lon Chaney in my opinion.  I also think he brings a sadness to the role that Chaney didn't, or perhaps couldn't, capture in a silent film.  Maureen O'Hara (b. 1920) as Esmeralda, was only in her fourth film.

The rest of the cast is equally impressive and includes many famous names.  I did see Charlie Hall (1899 - 1959) listed in an uncredited role.  Charlie is well known to all Laurel and Hardy fans.

In 1956 Hunchback was made starring Anthony Quinn (1915 - 2001) and Gina Lollobrigida (b. 1927).  I think I may have seen this one once, but it has faded from memory.

Lastly, in 1996 The Hunchback of Notre Dame was turned into a Disney animation.  This one has an incredible cast of voice actors and actresses.  There were also several TV releases and even a TV series in 1966, and also a video game in 1998.

I like the 1923 and 1939 versions best.  I also like looking at the early films, checking the cast, and seeing how they got their Bit Actors.


  1. I am sorry, Lon. While your makeup was superior to Laughton's, you just had too much to overcome without sound. When Laughton uttered those words, "She made me deaf, you know." my heart went out to him.

    The Phanton of the Opera is still your best work, and the best version ever to be made.

    And I like your blog!


Please add your thoughts, but they will be monitored so keep it on topic.