The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

115 or 117 mins | Drama | 29 December 1939

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HISTORY

The opening credits of this film read "RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. presents Victor Hugo's immortal classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame." According to a 1932 news item in HR, Universal announced that John Huston was writing a treatment for the first sound version of Hugo's story as a vehicle for Boris Karloff. In 1937, M-G-M considered making the film starring Peter Lorre. Pre-production news items in HR note that RKO considered Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains, Orson Welles, Robert Morley and Lon Chaney, Jr. for the role of the hunchback. The studio originally considered Charles Laughton for the role, but at the time, Laughton was negotiating with M-G-M to star in an adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. Materials contained in the RKO Production Files at the UCLA Library note that RKO paid $135,000 for the story rights for this film. The picture was shot at the RKO Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, where the studio constructed a 190 foot replica of Notre Dame, complete with gargoyles, vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. A news item in HR adds that the film's budget, estimated at between $2,500,000-$3,000,000 was the largest budget in RKO's production history. Studio records note that Joyce Gardner was originally slated to play the role of "Fleur," but a scheduling conflict prevented her appearance. Sir Cedric Hardwicke replaced Basil Rathbone as "Frollo" when scheduling conflicts prevented Rathbone from playing the role. This picture marked Maureen O'Hara's debut in an American picture, radio actor Edmond O'Brien's screen debut, and stage actor Walter Hampden's screen debut. The picture was nominated for an Academy Award for ...

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The opening credits of this film read "RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. presents Victor Hugo's immortal classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame." According to a 1932 news item in HR, Universal announced that John Huston was writing a treatment for the first sound version of Hugo's story as a vehicle for Boris Karloff. In 1937, M-G-M considered making the film starring Peter Lorre. Pre-production news items in HR note that RKO considered Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains, Orson Welles, Robert Morley and Lon Chaney, Jr. for the role of the hunchback. The studio originally considered Charles Laughton for the role, but at the time, Laughton was negotiating with M-G-M to star in an adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. Materials contained in the RKO Production Files at the UCLA Library note that RKO paid $135,000 for the story rights for this film. The picture was shot at the RKO Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, where the studio constructed a 190 foot replica of Notre Dame, complete with gargoyles, vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. A news item in HR adds that the film's budget, estimated at between $2,500,000-$3,000,000 was the largest budget in RKO's production history. Studio records note that Joyce Gardner was originally slated to play the role of "Fleur," but a scheduling conflict prevented her appearance. Sir Cedric Hardwicke replaced Basil Rathbone as "Frollo" when scheduling conflicts prevented Rathbone from playing the role. This picture marked Maureen O'Hara's debut in an American picture, radio actor Edmond O'Brien's screen debut, and stage actor Walter Hampden's screen debut. The picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Musical Score and Best Sound Recording. Modern sources add that Charles Laughton and makeup director Perc Westmore argued over the makeup of "Quasimodo." Laughton wanted to wear a heavy hump to help him act the role, but Westmore disagreed. Among the many film adaptations of Hugo's novel are: the 1917 Fox film The Darling of Paris starring Theda Bara and Glen White and directed by J. Gordon Edwards (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20); Universal's 1923 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Lon Chaney and directed by Wallace Worsley (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30); the 1957 French film Notre Dame de Paris starring Gina Lollobrigida and Anthony Quinn and Jean Delannoy; the 1982 television movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame directed by Michael Tuchner and starring Anthony Hopkins, Derek Jacobi and Lesley-Ann Down; and the 1996 Disney animated film directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, featuring the voices of Tom Hulce and Demi Moore.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1939
p. 3
Film Daily
15 Dec 1939
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1939
p. 11
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 1939
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1939
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1939
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1939
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 1939
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 1939
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 1932
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1937
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 1939
p. 12
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1939
p. 3
Motion Picture Daily
15 Dec 1939
p. 1, 4
Motion Picture Herald
9 Sep 1939
p. 59
Motion Picture Herald
23 Dec 1939
p. 37, 40
New York Times
1 Jan 1940
p. 29
Variety
20 Dec 1939
p. 14
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Siegfried Arno
Paul Newlan
Eddie Dew
Harry Fleischman
Bud Fine
Ted Lorch
Louis Williams
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst to William Dieterle
Asst to William Dieterle
Asst to William Dieterle
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Joseph H. August
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Al Herman
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus adpt and composer
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Dance dir
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Prod mgr
STAND INS
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
Stand in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) by Victor Hugo (Paris, 1831).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 December 1939
Production Date:
10 Jul--25 Sep 1939
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
29 December 1939
LP9344
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Victor System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
115 or 117
Length(in feet):
10,489
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5504
SYNOPSIS

Ignorance, cruelty and superstition pervade France of the fifteenth century. Frollo, the King's high justice, exploits these evils, persecuting the gypsies and opposing any mode of progress. When the lovely gypsy dancer Esmeralda is threatened by the King's men, she seeks refuge in a church, Notre Dame, where she meets the grotesque hunchback Quasimodo. Frollo, who is Quasimodo's guardian, orders the hunchback to take the girl captive, and Esmeralda, terrified, escapes to the underworld of Clopin and his beggars. There, she saves the life of the poet Gringoire by consenting to take him as her husband, although she truly loves the soldier Phoebus. Frollo lusts after Esmeralda, however, and, unable to tolerate her love for Phoebus, kills his rival. Esmeralda is arrested for the crime, and Frollo, claiming that the girl had bewitched him with the power of Satan, demands her life. As Esmeralda is marched to die on the gallows, Quasimodo leaps from the building above and carries her to the sanctuary of the church. Not to be denied Esmeralda's life, Frollo incites the nobles to deny sanctuary, and the beggars, concerned for the girl's safety, storm the church. Amid the chaos, Frollo enters the church. Justice is finally served as Quasimodo hurls Frollo to his death from the bell ...

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Ignorance, cruelty and superstition pervade France of the fifteenth century. Frollo, the King's high justice, exploits these evils, persecuting the gypsies and opposing any mode of progress. When the lovely gypsy dancer Esmeralda is threatened by the King's men, she seeks refuge in a church, Notre Dame, where she meets the grotesque hunchback Quasimodo. Frollo, who is Quasimodo's guardian, orders the hunchback to take the girl captive, and Esmeralda, terrified, escapes to the underworld of Clopin and his beggars. There, she saves the life of the poet Gringoire by consenting to take him as her husband, although she truly loves the soldier Phoebus. Frollo lusts after Esmeralda, however, and, unable to tolerate her love for Phoebus, kills his rival. Esmeralda is arrested for the crime, and Frollo, claiming that the girl had bewitched him with the power of Satan, demands her life. As Esmeralda is marched to die on the gallows, Quasimodo leaps from the building above and carries her to the sanctuary of the church. Not to be denied Esmeralda's life, Frollo incites the nobles to deny sanctuary, and the beggars, concerned for the girl's safety, storm the church. Amid the chaos, Frollo enters the church. Justice is finally served as Quasimodo hurls Frollo to his death from the bell tower.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.