Clopin (Ernest Torrence) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Clopin is the most complex character in the 1923 version of Hunchback of Notre Dame.  He’s conniving yet caring.  In this version like in most every other version, Clopin is merged with the Duke of Egypt, one of the leaders of the Court of Miracles, leader of the Esmeralda’s group, and Esmeralda’s protector. In in role as the Duke, Clopin is Esmeralda’s  adopted father. She is the only person that can soften his heart.

 

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) & Jehan (Brandon Hurst) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) & Jehan (Brandon Hurst) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

Clopin in the version also has a partnership with Jehan. The nature  of their friendship is never explain. Jehan tries to get Clopin mobilizes the Court of Miracle against the nobles and Jehan try to tempt Clopin with gold of Notre Dame in exchange for Esmeralda. The basis for their interaction could be taken from the La Esmeralda Opera Libretto that Hugo wrote in which Clopin works with Frollo and was the one to hide in the room when Esmeralda and Phoebus has their encounter. It could also be that Jehan does join the Court of Miracles in the book though he never interaction in Clopin. Or it could that it is mention in the book by Gringnoire that the Duke intends to sell Esmeralda to “gentlemen priest.”

Clopin (Ernest Torrence), Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) & Phoebus (Norman Kerry) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Clopin (Ernest Torrence), Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) & Phoebus (Norman Kerry) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

Clopin is also the one driving the social class sub-plot a.k.a the beggars vs the Nobles. It very similar to the 1939 version but in the 1939 version there were stakes, the nobel wanted Esmeralda out of Notre Dame here one noble just wants to marry. So basically it’s Clopin complaining and then getting mad when Esmeralda and Phoebus form a romantic attachment which for him is the ultimate insult.

 

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

It’s not wholly the films fault that this sub-plot  doesn’t go very far. It’s actually because the copy that survives today is sixteen minutes shorter that the original. Most of these sixteen minutes were comprised of Clopin and one scene with Quasimodo gets clothes for Esmeralda, which is the scene where a prominent picture of Quasimodo was taken, so prominent in fact that it’s on the spine of the DVD.  As result of Clopin’s role is much smaller than the film intended.  However you can see some pictures and read the script in the Riley’s Book which is published with Pasty Ruth Miller’s Autobiography, both of which are good reads if you a fan of the 1923 version or Miller’s or of old movies/Hollywood.

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

Clopin’s character suffers a lot from the cuts made to the film but even with the cuts is he the most complex  characters in the film and he at least interesting and memorable.

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) Dying 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame image picture

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) Dying 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

Next Time – Gringoire

Raymond Hatton as Gringoire 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Gringoire (Raymond Hatton) 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame

Phoebus in the 1923 version of  The Hunchback Notre dame is one of the few Phoebus that gets a bit of a character arc like in the book. In the book after getting stab he more or less gives up his cheating ways and dedicates himself to his Fiancée Fleur de Lys and submits to the tragedy of marriage.

 

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) revealing Esmeralda's bare shoulder (Patsy Ruth Miller) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame image picture

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) revealing Esmeralda’s bare shoulder (Patsy Ruth Miller) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame

In this version, Phoebus, after saving Esmeralda from the kidnapping attempt tries to seduce her but he is moved by her sweetness and innocence that his desire turns to true love. And with that Phoebus becomes the romantic hero who tries to marry her even though she is not in he same social class as him.

 

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame

Besides being in love and getting stab by Not-Frollo (Jehan), Phoebus doesn’t do that much within the overall plot. He does reinforce that whole class system which the movie makes into a sub-plot but he himself is not bothered by it, so it’s not issue for him as a character. He does have a few amusing scenes with Gringoire and some overdramatic bits but other than he’s pretty dull.

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) and Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) and Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

Really his biggest purpose in the film is getting stab and giving Esmeralda a happy ending. Much like Not-Frollo, Phoebus is pretty dull when he turns into a romantic hero, he was was more interesting when he was being smarmy.

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame

Next Time – Clopin

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame

Jehan 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame Brandon Hurst picture image

Jehan (Brandon Hurst) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Frollo character in the 1923 version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame is the worst depiction of the character in any of the prominent adaptations. What do I mean when I say the Frollo character? Well he is the character who acts on his lust for Esmeralda and gets the plot moving. What makes Frollo a compelling character is his inner struggle about desiring a girl and even if he is not a priest he needs to be battling against something that is contrary to his way of being/thinking. Either it’s his own pride of his purity or his bigoted opinion of the Gypsies. This is the hallmark to his character,  without it all you have is a creepy pervert and that is exactly what this Frollo is; an evil creepy pervert.

 

Jehan Frollo (Brandon Hurst) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Jehan Frollo (Brandon Hurst) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

This version is the first time the Frollo character was split into two characters who are brothers; Jehan, the younger  is the licentious lecher (the Frollo Character)  and the  saintly older Claude (or in the case of the 1923 version Dom Claudio). This method was employed in the 1939 version however it worked in that movie as Jehan Frollo had depth and some complexity. In the 1923 version there is no depth to Jehan, he is nothing more than a spoiled perverted brat.

 

Jehan and Esmeralda 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame Brandon Hurst and Patsy Ruth Miller picture image

Jehan (Brandon Hurst) trying to overpower Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller))

In a nutshell, Jehan was a priest but he decided he preferred sins to virtues. This brief bit of backstory is presented in one inter-text card. So what could have been an integral part of the movie is reduce to a sentence. Now to be fair, movies in the early 20s didn’t really flesh out villains, they were bad, so at least we get a text card that somewhat acknowledges the book. However even giving the movie a stylistic pass, Jehan is still weak. Maybe if he delighted in his evil or in his desires that would have been more enjoyable as a character. There are a few moments of hammy 20’s over-acting that are enjoyable but other than that he just very weak and not very memorable. He is just devoid of any interest, personality or passion. All he is a creepy perverted stalker.

 

Jehan 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame Brandon Hurst picture image

Jehan (Brandon Hurst) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

Next Time – Phoebus

Phoebus 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame Norman Kerry picture image

Phoebus (Norman Kerry) 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame

Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923 picture image

Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923

I think the 1923 version of  Hunchback of Notre Dame is the best depiction of Esmeralda in an movie. She captures the original charm of Esmeralda  from the book. She is  young, sweet, free-spirited, innocent, romantic and  a bit shallow.  Let’s face it, Esmeralda is not a particularly deep character. She is not  battling her own inner-demons nor is struggling against the social system. She just a young girl who likes to dance and the 1923 version allows her to be that character.

Esmeralda Rejecting Frollo Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923 picture image

Esmeralda Rejecting Frollo Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923

Unlike the Esmeralda of the novel the 1923 version has a bit more backbone and is more realistic. In the book Esmeralda is afraid of Frollo, in the 1923 she seems to ignore him or at most is just indifferent to him. Her behaving this way towards the Frollo character  does make their relationship less dramatic though.

Esmeralda Rejecting Phoebus Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923 picture Image

Esmeralda Rejecting Phoebus Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923

Also in the book there is no issue for her about Phoebus’ nobility. In the 1923 version Esmeralda does understand the social differences between them and at one point tries to rejects him however she retracts that very quickly. It may seem like a contrived sub-plot but it does add a bit of maturity to her character that we don’t see in the book.

 

Esmeralda Rejecting Quasimodo Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923 picture image

Esmeralda Rejecting Quasimodo Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923

 

Much like novel Esmeralda the 1923 doesn’t have lot of depth her characterization, basically her motivation is love and nothing else. I appreciate that movie kept her character simple and sweet like she is in book, it’s a nice foil to subsequent Esmeraldas who are either more mature or have a cause.

 

Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923 picture image

Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923

Next Time-  Jehan a.k.a Not Frollo

Jehan Frollo (Brandon Hurst) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Jehan Frollo (Brandon Hurst) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

Quasimodo (Lon Chaney) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Quasimodo (Lon Chaney) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

The 1923 version of Hunchback of Notre Dame starts and end with Quasimodo but he is not much of  a major player in the middle of film, between the pillory scene and saving Esmeralda. But since Lon Chaney gets top billing since it was he’s project Quasimodo is the main character.

Quasimodo points to at the Parisans Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney picture image

Quasimodo points to at the Parisans Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney

 

Quasimodo in this version is the closet to how  he behaves in the book. Quasimodo doesn’t like  the people of Paris and this version shows that in Quaismodo’s introductory scene as well as his connection to Notre Dame. You do get the feeling that his Quasimodo wouldn’t have saved Esmeralda if she hadn’t give him water, you get this Quasimodo may have not felt nothing which makes his loyalty to her more meaningful and it gives his character a bit of an arc.

 

Esmeralda patting Quasimodo on the head Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney with Patsy Ruth Miller picture image

Esmeralda patting Quasimodo on the head Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney with Patsy Ruth Miller

However this Quasimodo acts more like a dog that a person. A scene that showcases this perfectly is right after Quasimodo recuses Esmeralda she pats him on the head. This Quasimodo doesn’t see to be in love with Esmeralda he just seems to want to protect her. There doesn’t seem to the selfless love that in is the book and  Laughton captured  in the 1939 version.

 

Quasimodo on the Pillory Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney picture image

Quasimodo on the Pillory Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney

Quasimodo make-up may look outdated but it’s well done by Chaney and accurate to the Book. Also Chaney’s Quasimodo is a lot most acrobatic than other Quasimodos as Chaney was capable of jumping and climbing though stuntmen were used in a few instances but the 23 version is defiantly has most range of movement in a live-action film.

 

Quasimodo noticing his fatal wound Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney image picture

Quasimodo noticing his fatal wound Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney

If Quasimodo was meant to be the lead of the film and the emotional heart he does it well to a point. There some emotional confusion at the end of the movie and Quasimodo’s fate. I’m not sure how to feel that Quasimodo dies, sad, happy, bittersweet?

Quasimodo dying Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney pictuure image

Quasimodo dying Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney

Honestly I can’t gage any emotion from his death and I think that my problem with movie as a whole I don’t get an emotion or a heart of it. It has little vignettes of it but not in terms of a story that is based on a book with a very bittersweet ending.

 

Quasimodo looking sad Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney picture image

Quasimodo looking sad Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney

The 1923 is an odd Quasimodo because everything is there to make an compelling character and the film just misses the mark and makes Quasimodo more into a loyal puppy dog than a tragic hero.

Next Time – The 1923 Version of Esmeralda

Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923 picture image

Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame Patsy Ruth Miller 1923

There are three basic problems with the plot the 1923 version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame; its strong adherence to parts  that don’t make any sense in the scope of the movie, the changes that had to be made to appease the almighty censors, and Lon Chaney.

Quasimodo (Lon Chaney) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Quasimodo (Lon Chaney) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

The last problem really isn’t a problem but if you watch the opening scene you can see what I mean. The opening scene starts with the Feast of Fool and then it cuts away to Lon Chaney as Quasimodo basically mocking people from atop Notre Dame. I do appreciate that this is the only version to have Quasimodo that has a basic dislike for people like he does in the book which this scene shows nicely  but to just an awkward way to introduce Lon Chaney as Quasimodo to the viewers and it ruins the pacing and makes the beginning boring.

Jehan Frollo (Brandon Hurst) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Jehan Frollo (Brandon Hurst) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

 

The second issue has to do with censorship laws of the time. The law that pertains to Hunchback is a  movie couldn’t cast a priest in a negative light, meaning we can’t have a Priest lusting after a women. So much like the 1939 the role of the Frollo sinner is cast on the “Jehan” character the “Claude” character is the saintly priest. Unlike the 1939 version Jehan in this version has no reason why he can’t make a straight up move on Esmeralda. Nothing is stopping him; no conflict of her being a Gypsy or no implied religious morality getting in the way. He’s just a coward with no real personality or motivation.

Esmeralda (Pasty Ruth Miller) and Jehan Frollo (Brandon Hurst) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Esmeralda (Pasty Ruth Miller) and Jehan Frollo (Brandon Hurst) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

There is no confliction for this Jehan so there is no interest. The plot of the book is hinged on Frollo’s obsession with Esmeralda so if there is no torment where does the interest to the plot lie? Well in this case the interest to the plot is Lon Chaney’s Quasimodo, so back to that issue, remember this film started the “Quasimodo is main character” mentality that the many of the films buy in to .

 

Gudule (Gladya Brockwell) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Gudule (Gladya Brockwell) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

The finally issue is a weird one to be an issue because when we compare movies to book there is a part of us that wishes that the movie would follow the book perfectly and we get up annoy by what the movie misses or adds. However it is hard to make a movie follow the book perfectly as they are two different median for story telling. One aspect of the book that I wish made into more movies is the Sister Gudule sub-plot. Sister Gudule is Esmeralda’s mother. The 1923 version is one of the few version to have this sub-plot however it goes no where. We get the back story of how Esmeralda was taken and we see Gudule curse her and then as Esmeralda is about to die Gudule realizes Esmeralda is her child and then I guess she dies. So Esmeralda doesn’t learn this, it amounts to nothing. It was just there because it was in the book but if Esmeralda doesn’t learns this and where is the emotion in the end what was the point?

 

Esmeralda (Pasty Ruth Miller), Phoebus (Norman Kelly) and Clopin (Ernest Torrence) Ball Scene Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Esmeralda (Pasty Ruth Miller), Phoebus (Norman Kelly) and Clopin (Ernest Torrence) Ball Scene Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

Another sub-plot that was added was this division of the nobel and the poor. Now this was a bigger point in the 1939 version here’s it amount to one scene where Phoebus brings Esmeralda to a party and he dresses up and tries to pass her off as a Princess and the party is broken up by Clopin and Esmeralda sadly rejects Phoebus. Like Gudule, these scene that revolve around the classes don’t add to very much to the over all plot

 

Esmeralda (Pasty Ruth Miller) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Esmeralda (Pasty Ruth Miller) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

It’s not that entire plot and pacing of the 1923 version is bad it’s just following the book too closely wrecked the pacing and the removal of Frollo’s torment ruins the emotional intensity.  The “Chaney being forced” to the audiences was just the opening so it wasn’t  a major problem but  it’s the reason why the film doesn’t have a very strong opening scene.

Next Time-  Characters starting with Quasimodo

Quasimodo (Lon Chaney), Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) and Gudule (Gladys Brockwell) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 picture image

Quasimodo (Lon Chaney), Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) and Gudule (Gladys Brockwell) Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923

 

watch the 1923 on youtube in one handy long video, no but serious it’s very nice

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dm09QfKsOQ

Or you could buy the DVD from amazon and listen to former make-up artist Michael Blake  praise Lon Chaney and butcher the character’s name for an hour and forty minute i(namely Quasimodo, Esmeralda and Phoebus). Though I have to admit it was funny because it was kind of obvious that he had never read the book. Because in the book Frollo tries to force himself on Esmeralda and Quasimodo saves her, in the movie Frollo, be it Jehan in this case, does this and Quasimodo save her butBlake this scene is just the product of silent movies tropes and praise the movie for having Qausimodo save her and not Phoebus, :facepalms:

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney picture image

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney

The 1923 version of Hunchback of Notre Dame with Lon Chaney is the oldest surviving film version but it’s by no means the oldest. The Hunchback was a project Chaney really wanted to make. Initially Universal watched it to be a star vehicle for Priscilla Dean (who appeared in a few films with Chaney like Outside the Law & The Wicked Darling) but that along with many other attempts at it fell through.

Priscilla Dean image picture

Priscilla Dean

Chaney eventually struck a deal with Universal and Chaney and Irving Thalberg (then then head of Universal) made it into something special and not just another mass-produced movie that universal had been making at the try. The 23 version in affect made Universal into bigger name studio and launch Chaney’s career. But is it a good movie? Is it a good adaptation of Hugo’s novel? If Chaney hadn’t for the most part spearhead this movie and  who Esmeralda still have been the focus  in the movies?  Would there have been the same number adaptations?  These and probably more question coming soon.

 

Next Time- The Plot

Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmeralda Hunchback chaney version 1923 picture image

Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmeralda

Since we’re going to be embarking on reviewing the Lon Chaney version of Hunchback of Notre Dame I thought it would be a good time to ask an important question who is  more Handsome, Chaney as Quasimodo or Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera? Mmmm this is a very tough question as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but then again so is ugliness.

 

Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera picture image

Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera

Lon Chaney as the Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image Quasimodo

Lon Chaney as the Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To answer this very tricky question I asked a crack team of young, impressionable and insecure, teenage girls  who all said that they were both ugly but if they had to pick they all chose the Phantom because even though he’s ugly, he is at least a musician and they all really like musician plus he is a better dresser. Though even when I pointed out that Quasimodo rang bells with making him a musician of sorts the girls still said the Phantom. I guess they like bad boys, typical huh?

My Crack Team of Young, Impressionable and Insecure,  teenage girls a.k.a Disney Princesses picture image

My Crack Team of Young, Impressionable and Insecure, Teenage Girls a.k.a Disney Princesses

 

Sorry Quasimodo, the girls prefer the deform, obsessed, musically-inclined psychopathic genius to your deformed and slightly angry yet loyal nature.

Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera With Mary Philbin picture image

Phantom makes the Ladies go weak in the Knees

 

But what do you think? Who is do think is more handsome the Hunchback of Notre Dame or The Phantom of the Opera? (Remember keep it to Lon Chaney)

I’ve been a fan of  Animaniacs since the begining, but like some many children a lot of the joke went right over my head. I was watching Volume 2 recently and I notice a wonderful little refernce to the 1923 version.

Ok, so the opening has a line that is varied, this line has to end with an “Y” sound and one of these lines is “Where Lon Chaney” and the visual is  Wakko is dressed as Quasimodo and not as Phantom of the Opera which is probably Chaney’s most well-known role. So point for the Hunchback.

Wakko as Quasimodo Animaniacs picture image

Wakko as Quasimodo Animaniacs

Isn’t he cute?