Notre Dame 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Set of Notre Dame 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

So if the plot of the 1939 version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is the weakest aspect then what are stronger aspects? The Visuals. The Mise-en-Scene (stuff in front of the camera)  more than makes up for the weak plot adaptation. The break down of Mise-en-scene is in five parts; Lighting, Sets, Costumes, Props, and Staging/perfomances. For the most part all these areas are handled with masterful attention, then again it’s no surprise considering how much RKO Radio Pictures put into movie to one up the 1923 version ($250,000 in 1939*)

Over the next couple of posts we’ll look at the Mise-en-scene  of the film.

First up – Props

* Today this would about $180,000(IMDB), the amount of the 1939 budget comes from Maureen O’Hara’s autobiography “Tis Herself”

So after looking at the plot overview let’s review it. The first thing to look at is the script. The script  of 1939 version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame was written by Bruno Frank and Sonya Levien. Frank wrote an adaptation and Levien wrote a screenplay based off that adaptation. The thing to keep in mind about Frank’s adaptation is that he was a German author, poet, dramatist and humanist of Jewish descent. He fled Germany because he feared the Government  and lived in Austria and England before going to America in 1937. He then starting working in Hollywood as a writer. So given the political environment of the late 30’s along with Frank’s experience it’s no wonder that the Hunchback of Notre Dame parallels Europe of the late 30s. Considering Frank’s background as an author/poet/humanist it’s understandable why Gringoire is co-hero with Quasimodo.

Speaking of Quasimodo and scenes that feature him, most of his lines are  pretty much verbatim to what Victor Hugo wrote. The film also likes to insert him wherever it can: Louis commenting on the Bells and asking about the Bell ringer, the girl crying to grandmother about seeing him, scaring Esmeralda away from Notre Dame, confessing to Phoebus‘ murder, and him alone at the end. Clearly the film compensates for Quasimodo isn’t the main character in the book.

One of the major problems with the plot is that because there is this push towards modernity, which Louis and Gringoire represent, there are lot of scenes that are either completely added, like opening scene or added to much larger parts of the film so that Louis and Gringoire can be featured more. Quasimodo’s flogging and Esmeralda’s trial are good examples. The pillory scene cuts away to other characters and sometimes just random extras, but it mainly cuts to Gringoire and Clopin, who are talking about the truth about beggary and Gringoire wanting to help Quasimodo, so he prolonged in the scene further by seeing Claude. Esmeralda’s trial has interjects made by Gringoire pleading for common sense, Quasimodo confessing to the murder, and Louis giving Esmeralda a “Trial by Ordeal” the “ordeal” is more chance, basically she just has to touch the right dagger (Louis) to be freed but she fails. These add on don’t add much and if they accomplish anyway it weak character develop at best.

Quasimodo on the Pillory Charles Laughton  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory cut 1 -Gringoire and Clopin Edmond O'brein Thomas Mitchell 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory cut 2- extras   1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory cut 3 -Quasimodo Charles Laughton  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory cut 4 - whipper  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory cut 5 - Gringoire and Clopin Edmond O'brein Thomas Mitchell 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory 6 - more extras  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory 7 - to Quasimodo Charles Laughton  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory 8 -Frollo in a meeting Sir Cedric hardwicke 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory 9 - Gringoire and Clopin Edmond O'brein Thomas Mitchell 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Pillory 10 - Frollo on the scene Sir Cedric hardwicke 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Pillory 11 - Gringoire and Claude Edmond O'brein Walter Hampden 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image pillory 12 -Gringoire and Esmealda  Edmond O'brein Maureen O'hara 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Pillory 13 -Esmeralda and Quasimodo Charles Laughton Maureen O'hara   1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

 

all these pictures are all from the “pillory scene” and now for the trial

Trial extras  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Aristotle the Goat 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Quasimodo confesses to the murder Charles Laughton  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Extra leaving trial  extras  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Frollo watches from a spy hole Sir cedric hardwicke 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Frollo-vision of Esmeralda being tortured Maureen O'hara 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Louis at the Trial Harry Davenport 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Louis and Esmeralda Maureen O'hara Harry Davenport 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image Trial by ordeal/chance Maureen O'hara Harry Davenport 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

this scene does not have as many ADD-ons as the pillory scene  but when Quasimodo comes in it just falls apart and having Louis there makes it worst.

Another  big problem is Frollo’s obsession/lust for Esmeralda comes off very contrived. He sees her dance, he stares but I don’t think he is  enchanted by her at that moment. Their discussion in Notre Dame is just there so he can talk to her. He starts by letting his prejudices and superstition about her and her people be known and thne he stares at her breasts for more than a few seconds. And while that part is quite amusing, it seems so forced, it almost like he bored of talking to her. After that the talk takes a dive because they strike an accord over a mutual love of animals, for no explain reason Frollo keeps a dozen cats in his office, I guess this would explain why he took in Quasimodo in the first place. Anyway it seemed that Frollo and Esmeralda could be have friends if Quasimodo haven’t scared her and he tried to kidnap  her. A side point about the kidnapping, at the point where Esmeralda fled from Notre Dame she apparently lived in sanctuary because she didn’t have a city permit and would be arrested for not having one, so seemed like the “kidnapping” was only to take her back to safety. It’s good thing the guard who recused her didn’t ask for her permit, actually the permit thing is never mention again, it completed its’ mission for the plot. Anyway back to the Frollo/Esmeralda dynamic, given his tepid feeling and her lacking of feeling anything towards him, this makes the confession scene odd. Esmeralda and Gringoire are performing and for some weird reason Frollo is hosting. He asks Gringoire if he is ready to perform. When Gringoire is out the way , Frollo makes his move and confesses his confused little feelings. Now prior to this scene Frollo tried exactly once to find Esmeralda, he had all the Gypsy girls in the Court of Miracle arrested and then released  because Esmeralda wasn’t there. So he didn’t  shown his powerful obsession/lust, so it hard to buy his torment. Prior to this we know that Esmeralda doesn’t have any strong dislike of Frollo, so I don’t buy her fear in this scene either. Then she goes off with Phoebus and Frollo kills him again I don’t believe he was pushed to murder. Since Frollo is the catalyst that causes the story to take motion, the Frollo/Esmeralda dynamic needs to strong, not there because the it was in the original.

I do like that the theme is old vs new and embraces the sprit of progress, it’s a nice change of pace for a Hunchback movie. The cliche theme for Hunchback films is “beauty is on the inside”. But the theme does tries to hard it assert itself and competes with original too much. I think the plot suffers because of this and ultimately the the plot and the screenplay are the weakest element of the film.

Next time we’ll look at the Mise-en-scene for the movie.  see ya then!

The 1939 version The Hunchback of Notre Dame opens with text about the current times and how Great Louis IX but there is superstition /prejudice that wants to “crush the adventurous spirit of man”. From the get go the film tells us that in addition to Qusiamodo being a prominent character,  Pierre Gringoire  and King Louis XI are very important characters as they represent modernity while Frollo is provides the superstition /prejudice and Esmeralda works as something for the character to fight for or agianst. Gringoire is also who the author (in this case Frank) identified with which is why he get more scene time and importance in film’s events.

The over-all theme of the film is the changing world and this old vs new but the overt undertones are taken from political environment of the late 30’s, (i.e the opinion of the Gypsies and their need for city permits in late 15th century Paris)

King Louis XI  Harry Davenport 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

King Louis XI ( Harry Davenport)

Jehan Frollo Sir Cedric Hardwicke 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Jehan Frollo (Sir Cedric Hardwicke)

Despite the add-ons to the over-all story  the plot is the same. King Louis (Harry Davenport) Jehan Frollo (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) Chief Justice, are a sort of odd couple.

Esmeralda Maureen O'Hara 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara)

They are forever talking of this old vs new, Louis loves it and Frollo hates it and in the opening scene they talk of the new invention, a printing press. Frollo wants to destroy it and Louis considers it a miracle. Frollo then vows he will protect France from the press as he protect it from witches, sorcerers and Gypsies. At that moment,  Esmeralda a young Gypsy (Maureen O’Hara) arrives in Paris so that she may speak to the king about the blight of her people.

She arrives during the Feast of Fools. At the feast a young idealist poet Pierre Gringoire (Edmond O’Brien) is performing a play that meets with harsh criticism.

Gringoire (Edmond O'Brien)  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame image picture

Gringoire (Edmond O'Brien)

Phoebus (Alan Marshal) 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Phoebus (Alan Marshal)

In addition to the general merriment, the highlight of the festival is the crowning of the King of Fools, which is reserved for the ugliest face in Paris.

Esmeralda spots an eye staring  maureen o'hara 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame

Esmeralda spots an eye staring

Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Quasimodo (Charles Laughton)

Quasimodo King of Fools  charles laughton  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Quasimodo King of Fools

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Esmeralda dances she sees Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) the misshapen hunchback of Notre Dame staring at her, he is pulled out of hiding and  is crowned King of Fools. The Feast ends when Frollo, Quasimodo’s care taker, forces him back to Notre Dame.  Esmeralda is then forced to take refuge in Notre Dame because she Gypsy with out documentation.

 

Esmeralda looking at the Virgin Mary maureen o'hara 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Esmeralda looking at the Virgin Mary

Esmeralda and Frollo in Notre Dame Maureen O'hara Sir cedric hardwicke 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Esmeralda and Frollo in Notre Dame

Frollo stares Esmeralda's breasts for 15 seconds Maureen O'hara Sir cedric hardwicke 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Frollo stares for 15 seconds

 

 

 

 

 

 

She then encounters Frollo who find her while he is visiting his brother Claude (Walter Hampden) the Arch-Deacon of Notre dame. Frollo expresses  his  superstition & prejudice against the Gyspies and demand she leaves.  He also demonstrates also a growing fascination with her, After seeing the good in Frollo (he likes animals, especially cats).

Frollo is a crazy cat "lady" Sir cedric hardwicke 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Frollo is a crazy cat "lady"

She asks Mary to speak to the King, Louis as it happens in Notre Dame and agrees to review her request about her people.  Frollo takes Esmeralda to the bell tower because she now lives in sanctuary but flees from Notre Dame because Quasimodo frightened. She is pursued by Quasimodo while Frollo hides in the shadows, she is rescued by Gringoire and Phoebus. She is immediately smitten with Phoebus.


Clopin King of Beggars (Thomas Mitchell) 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Clopin King of Beggars (Thomas Mitchell)

Gringoire balancing a chair in his mouth Edmond O'brein 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Gringoire learns a life skill

Gringoire then stumbles into the Court of Miracles and after almost being  hanged by Clopin, (Thomas Mitchell)

 

 

 

Just then all the Gypsy girls are arrested because of Frollo obsession with Esmeralda but just as the guards descend on the Court, Esmeralda sneaks out to see her people and tell them about the King.

Quasimodo on the Pillory chalres laughton 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Quasimodo on the Pillory

Esmeralda gives Quasimodo a drop of water charles Laughton Maureen O'hara 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

A drop of water

Quasimodo is sentenced to 50 lashes and public disgrace. Gringoire tries to help but  can’t do anything and as Quasimodo begs for water Esmeralda gives him some water and a little pity. After that Quasimodo falls in love with her.

 

Frollo confesses to Esmeralda Sir cedric hardwicke Maureen O'hara 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Frollo confesses to Esmeralda

Phoebus and Esmeralda get comfortable  Maureen O'hara Alan Marshal  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Phoebus and Esmeralda get comfortable

Claude can't be brothers with a murder  Sir Cedric Hardwick Walter Hampden 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

Claude can't be brothers with a murder

 

 

 

 

 

 

During a party where Gringoire and Esmeralda are performing, Frollo confesses his obsession to her. She runs off  and finds Phoebus, who is later murder while with Esmeralda. Frollo confesses to the murder to his brother but Claude refuses to help him.

 

Esmeralda and Aristotle share a moment   maureen O'hara  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

Esmeralda and Aristotle share a moment

Quasimodo confesses to the murder charles laughton 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

Quasimodo confesses to the murder

Frollo watches from a spy hole Sir cedric hardwicke 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

Frollo watches from a spy hole

Frollo-vision of Esmeralda being tortured Maureen O'hara 1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

Esmeralda being tortured

Esmeralda is on trial along side her goat, Gringoire tries to make the court see common sense and Quasimodo confesses to the murder. However she is tortured and despite her innocence she confesses and is sentenced to death. Louis tries to intervene on behalf of Claude but he can’t do much.

Quasimodo proclaiming  SANCTUARY for Esmeralda Charles Laughton  Maureen O'hara  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

SANCTUARY!!!!!

 

 

On the day her execution Quasimodo saves her and claim sanctuary.

 

 

Beggars are ready for the attack  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

Beggars are ready for the attack

Enraged, the nobles try remove sanctuary as Esmeralda has killed “one of them”. Clopin and Gringoire debate on the best method of saving her; words or force. Both methods are tried. Louis reads Gringoire pamphet while Clopin attack Notre dame. As  Clopin attacks Notre Dame Louis discover that Frollo is the real murder.  Quasimodo defends Notre Dame and is sucessful, even if the people attacking were trying to protect Esmeralda.

 

Quaismodo throws Frollo out the window  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

Quaismodo throws Frollo out the window

 

At his moment of  victory, he finds Frollo pursuing  Esmeralda and  Quasimodo throws Frollo from the cathedral.

 

 

 

 

Esmeralda and Gringoire leave Notre Dame maureen O'hara Edmond O'brein  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

Esmeralda and Gringoire leaving together

 

Esmeralda is then pardon and the Gypsies are free to live in France. As Esmeralda and Gringoire go off together while Quasimodo ask why he wasn’t made of stone.

 

 

 

Quasimodo alone at the end  Charles Laughton  1939 Hunchback of Notre dame  picture image

Quasimodo alone at the end

 

 

 

 

 

That the plot of 1939 version of Hunchback of Notre Dame, next time plot review

Happy January 6 , this is the date that the novel begins, So I’ll start off by saying Happy Feast of Fools, (I know I’m Dork)

Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) alone at the end 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Quasimodo Charles Laughton, 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

 

The first on the radar is the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Why start with the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame? It’s by no means the oldest or even the most well known. The oldest adaptation is from 1836 and the most well known is the Disney version. Which is exactly why I’m starting with the 1939 version. In classic Disney fashion, Disney took cues from this version. For instance if you have read the book but for whatever reason you have only seen the Disney version, you might wonder why is Frollo a Judge? Or why Esmeralda is even in Notre Dame midway the flick? The 1939 version is the first to make Frollo a Judge (to my knowledge) and it is the first in the Notre Dame  collection to have Esmeralda enter Notre Dame for either a prayer, safety, or both. (though in 1923 version, Esmeralda enters Notre dame to meet with Phoebus).

The film is well regarded as a fine movie with great performances especially by Charles Laughton as Quasimodo or as the Hunchback as he is credited. It garnered two academy awards nominations for Best Original Music Score and Best Sound  and given that 1939 was the year of Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of OZ, and other great movies this is nothing to sneeze at.

The film was produced by RKO Radio Pictures and was made as remake for the 1923 version starting Lon Chaney. As far the bare bone of the original plot ala Victor Hugo and the separation of Frollo’s characters by making the younger brother Jehan take on the Lustfulness and the elder Claude as the pious archdeacon of Notre Dame, there is very little similarity between the 1923 and 1939 version. Though the sets look very similar, expect the 1939 version was also meant to one up the 1923 version in lavishness and expansiveness of the mise-en-scene.

For The Classic Version of Hunchback, Click Here

Next time we’ll dive into the plot of 1939 version.

Hello and Welcome to the Hunchblog of Notre Dame.

This Blog is dedicated to reviewing and analyzing the different  adaptations of Victor’s Hugo novel Notre Dame de Paris aka The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  There are dozens of retelling of the novel ranging from movies, cartoons, musicals, ballets, and operas. Some are considered masterpieces and some are just pain awful. Some are vastly popular and beloved and even more are unknown.

So why review the various adaptations of this particular novel?  It’s a story that is known throughout the world but at the same time it’s misunderstood. This is mainly because the focus has shifted from “Our Lady of Paris”(Esmeralda) to Quasimodo as the main (titular) character. Of course not all the versions put Quasimodo as the main character but more than enough have. Is it a bad thing not to follow the novel faithfully?  Should failure to follow the novel at least somewhat means that the version be diminish in the quality of the version? I would say no, even if I’m somewhat of purist on following the source material. But so for the sake of this blog, I’m going to review the adaptation on their own merits and then look at the version against the novel.

So stay tuned ^__^

First version up the 1939 version