With huge sets, rousing action scenes and a versatile throng portraying a medieval Paris of cutthroats, clergy, beggars and nobles, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) remains one of Hollywood's all-time grandest spectacles.
Charles Laughton gives one of his best performances as Quasimodo: outsized yet nuanced, heart-rendering yet inspiring. Maureen O'Hara is the gypsy Esmeralda, whose simple act of pity frees the emotions within him. When she is wrongly condemned, he rescues her from hanging, sweeping all of Paris into a fight for justice.
Starring Charles Laughton as the severely misshapen bellringer Quasimodo, William Dieterle's adaptation of the familar Victor Hugo classic is set in the bustling society of 15th-century Paris, as the forces of church and state strive to maintain their sway over a populace struggling for a better life. Jean Frollo (Cedric Hardwicke), chief justice of Paris, unites secular and religious authority in one foully hypocritical personage. Spying a spectacularly beautiful Gypsy woman named Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara) in church, he sends his factotum, Quasimodo, to abduct her. Frollo's plan is foiled by Phoebus, captain of the guard (Alan Marshall), and the hunchback is sentenced to public flogging and exposure. Despite her earlier fear of Quasimodo, only Esmeralda is willing help the bound hunchback as he begs for water in the public square. The film features one of Laughton's best performances, a superb supporting cast, a vivd script, and extraordinary production values for a type of intelligent entertainment now rarely seen.
Charles Laughton stars as deformed bellringer Quasimodo in William Dieterle's adaptation of the oft-filmed Victor Hugo classic. Set in 15th-century Paris, as both church and state struggle to maintain their loosening grip on the populace, the story is driven by the beautiful Gypsy dancer Esmeralda. She attracts the attention of evil High Justice Frollo, who sends the hunchback to abduct her, but he's foiled by the captain of the guard, Phoebus. When Quasimodo is flogged sometime later, it is Esmeralda who risks exposure to bring him water, transforming the hunchback's spirit.
The film marked actress Maureen O'Hara's first Hollywood film.
The TCM Turner Classic Movies VHS release (Cat.#6377V) includes several special features: *An exclusive interview with Maureen O'Hara *A new documentary on the making of the film *The original 1939 trailer and lobby card art *A new introduction by Robert Osborne
The TCM Turner Classic Movies CLV laserdisc release includes a short documentary and analog-track commentary by film historian Paul Mandell. It is the first laser release from Turner Classic Movies.