Lon Chaney’s Hunchback

My moods decided to crave a classic melodrama the other day.  I just happened to be in the Norfolk Public Library, so I zeroed in on the old movies in the DVD stacks.  “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” starring Lon Chaney was slightly angled out of the shelf, so I pulled it out to read the liner notes.

I’d become interested in Chaney after viewing “The Man Of A Thousand Faces” starring James Cagney.  The actor, Lon Chaney made an excellent subject for a film on his own merits.  Chaney was the premier actor in the horror genre of his day.  His first major film was the one he had lobbied for since 1920 was the Notre Dame project.  He saw the hunchback figure, Quasimodo, as the perfect way to spotlight his character acting skills.


Although the movie falls into the “horror” category, I didn’t find anything monsterous about the film nor Quasimodo.  Instead, I found a sympathetic depiction of a social outcast and a rather melodramatic presentation.  Tragic persona and melodrama work well together in silent film.

The publicly detested Quasimodo is enraptured by the gypsy queen Esmeralda played by Patsy Ruth Miller. The other major protagonist is Phoebus de Chateaupers brilliantly played by Norman Kerry.  The character Clopin The King of the Poor, played by Ernest Torrence develops into an antagonist after being rejected by Esmeralda.

The redubbing of the film to DVD was technically good, especially when considering that the film was originally produced in 1923.  Many reviewers panned the musical soundtrack as being inappropriate.  I disagree with that assessment, but I do think the music overwhelms the film.  I thought the music was superb, especially the pipe organ solos. I wish there was a soundtrack album of the music alone because I so enjoyed the performances.

All said, this is one of Hollywood’s best “silent” movies and it’s well worth viewing.

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was directed by Wallace Worsley based upon the novel by Victor Hugo and adapted by Perley Porre Sheehan. Starring Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry, Kate Lester, Winifred Bryson, Nigel De Brulier, Brandon Hurst, Ernest Torrence, Tully Marshall, Harry von Meter and Raymond Hutton.  Released by Universal Pictures, DVD Release by “Image Entertainment” 2007.


The Blue Jay of Happiness recommends this film as a true classic.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Vintage Collectables and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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