AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Director: William Dieterle (Dir)
Release Date:   29 Dec 1939
Production Date:   10 Jul--25 Sep 1939
Duration (in mins):   115 or 117
Duration (in feet):   10,489
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Cast:   Charles Laughton (Quasimodo)  
    Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Frollo)  
    Thomas Mitchell (Clopin)  
    Maureen O'Hara (Esmeralda)  
    Edmond O'Brien (Gringoire)  
    Alan Marshal (Phoebus)  
    Walter Hampden (Archbishop)  
    Harry Davenport (King Louis XI)  
    Katharine Alexander (Fleur's mother)  
    George Zucco (Procurator)  
    Fritz Leiber (Old nobleman)  
    Etienne Girardot (Doctor)  
    Helene Whitney (Fleur)  
    Minna Gombell (Queen of beggars)  
    Arthur Hohl (Olivier)  
    Curt Bois (Student)  
    George Tobias (Beggar)  
    Rod La Rocque (Phillipo)  
    Spencer Charters (Court clerk)  
    Kathryn Adams (Fleur's companion)  
    Diane Hunter (Fleur's companion)  
    Siegfried Arno (Tailor)  
    Peter Godfrey (Priest)  
    John Fowler (Fourth nobleman)  
    Hector Sarno (Knight)  
    Joe Mack (Workman in play)  
    Harry Vejar (Noble)  
    Dewey Robinson (Butcher)  
    Ferdinand Munier (Defense attorney)  
    Gretl Sherk (Lissy)  
    Edward Groag (Moon)  
    Vallejo Gantner (Merchant)  
    Thom Fox (Jupiter)  
    Louis Adlon (Venus)  
    Charles Hall (Mercury)  
    Robert Schiller (Saturn)  
    Otto Hoffman (First judge)  
    Lionel Belmore (Clergy in play)  
    Rudolph Steinbeck (Peasant in play)  
    Ray Long (Dancer of death)  
    Arthur Dulac (Mars)  
    Tempe Pigott (Madalaine)  
    Dick Dickinson (Wooden-leg man)  
    Alan Spear (Contortionist)  
    Ward Shattuck (Juggler)  
    Earl Clyde (Juggler)  
    Harold DeGarro (Stiltwalker)  
    Louis Valaris (Tightrope man)  
    Antonio Pina (Ladder man)  
    Consuela Melandez (Singer)  
    Eddie Abdul (Singer)  
    Vangie Beilby (Contestant)  
    Elsie Prescott (Contestant)  
    Gisela Werbiseck (Grandmother)  
    Al Herman (Short fat soldier)  
    Angela Molinos (Helene)  
    Victor Kilian (Old hangman)  
    Arthur Millett (Count Graville)  
    Raymond Hatton (Ugly man)  
    Russ Powell (Ugly man)  
    James Fawcett (Roll-ball man)  
    Barlowe Borland (Dubois)  
    Paul Newlan (Whipper)  
    Margaret McWade (Younger sister)  
    Margaret Seddon (Older sister)  
    Lillian Nicholson (DeLys' servant)  
    Ione Reed (Double for Maureen O'Hara)  
    Marie Bodie (Double for Maureen O'Hara)  
    Archie Butler (Double for Alan Marshal)  
    Jack Perrin (Double for Rod La Rocque)  
    George De Normand (Double for Rod La Rocque)  
    Eddie Dew    
    Charles Drake    
    Harry Fleischman    
    Fred Mellinger    
    Louis Jean Heydt    
    Gail Patrick    
    Laura Hope Crews    
    Rube Schaffer    
    Peter Godfrey    
    Victor Metzetti    
    Billy Jones    
    Frank Mills    
    Walter O. Stahl    
    Cecil Weston    
    John Laird    
    Richard Clayton    
    Lew King    
    Bud Fine    
    Nestor Paiva    
    Ted Lorch    
    Harry Weil    
    Alexander Granach    
    George Souzanne    
    Gene Clark    
    John Lawrence    
    George Barrows    
    Mary Lou Wentz    
    Laurie Hale    
    Louis Williams    
    Eleanor Pellapreau    

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: William Dieterle (Dir)
  Will Price (Dial dir)
  Argyle Nelson (Asst dir)
  Edward Killy (Asst dir)
  Peter Berneis (Asst to William Dieterle)
  Erich Pommer Jr. (Asst to William Dieterle)
  Michael Audley (Asst to William Dieterle)
Producer: Pandro S. Berman (Prod)
Writer: Sonya Levien (Scr)
  Bruno Frank (Adpt)
Photography: Joseph H. August (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase (Art dir)
  Al Herman (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: William Hamilton (Ed)
  Robert Wise (Ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
Costumes: Walter Plunkett (Cost)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus adpt and composer)
Sound: John E. Tribby (Rec)
Special Effects: Vernon L. Walker (Spec eff)
Dance: Ernst Matray (Dance dir)
  David Robel (Dance dir)
Make Up: Perc Westmore (Makeup)
Production Misc: Louis Vandenecker (Tech adv)
  Rudi Feld (Tech adv)
  J. R. Crone (Prod mgr)
Stand In: Gale Mogul (Stand in)
  Raida Rae (Stand in)
  Frank Mills (Stand in)
  Sailor Vincent (Stand in)
  Sue Shannon (Stand in)
  Dick Crockett (Stand in)
  Ray Atchley (Stand in)
  Murray Darcy (Stand in)
  Grace Moody (Stand in)
  Edna Marisle (Stand in)
  George Bax (Stand in)
  Carda Rae (Stand in)
  Hope Taylor (Stand in)
  Ned Davenport (Stand in)
  Jack Paul (Stand in)
  Bill Brennan (Stand in)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) by Victor Hugo (Paris, 1831).
Authors: Victor Hugo

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 29/12/1939 dd/mm/yyyy LP9344

PCA NO: 5504
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Victor System

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): France--History--Medieval period
  Gypsies
  Hunchbacks
  Rescues
  Romantic rivalry
 
Subjects (Minor): Beggars
  Cathedrals
  Falls from heights
  False accusations
  Wards and guardians
  Kings
  Lechery
  Murder
  Poets
  Soldiers

Note: 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. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   15 Dec 39   p. 3.
Film Daily   15 Dec 39   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Feb 39   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Apr 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jun 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jul 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Jul 39   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 39   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Aug 32   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Nov 37   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Dec 39   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Dec 39   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   15 Dec 39   p. 1, 4
Motion Picture Herald   9 Sep 39   p. 59.
Motion Picture Herald   23 Dec 39   p. 37, 40
New York Times   1 Jan 40   p. 29.
Variety   20 Dec 39   p. 14.

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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.
 
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