THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939) B/W 115m dir: William Dieterle
w/Charles Laughton, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Maureen O'Hara, Edmond O'Brien, Alan Marshall, Walter Hampden, Harry Davenport, Katherine Alexander, George Zucco
From The Movie Guide: "With its lavish production and superb cast, a brilliant performance by Charles Laughton, and moody, atmospheric direction from German expatriate William Dieterle, this is easily the best film version of Victor Hugo's classic novel to date.
"Laughton is the pathetic, lonely, misshapen bellringer of Notre Dame who falls in love with the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara). In addition to gorgeous sets by Van Nest Polglase and breathtaking photography by Joseph H. August, the film benefits from a script that is a vast improvement over the 1923 version. Bringing Hugo's social and political concerns to the forefront, screenwriters Sonya Levien and Bruno Frank make the corrupt machinations of the church almost as important as Quasimodo's tragic love. Laughton, whom some have accused of overplaying the role's pathos, is magnificent here in one of his greatest roles. His makeup, created by George and R. Gordon Bau, is at least the equal of Lon Chaney's, with modern foam latex technology allowing for a subtler and, therefore, more jarring visage.
"RKO spent more than $2 million on this production --- one of the most expensive films ever made by the studio --- and was rewarded with both critical and financial success. This was the US film debut of the breathtaking O'Hara, and a fine film debut for Edmund O'Brien. Superior, gripping filmmaking, well worth revisiting for Dieterle's marvelous command of detail."
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME was nominated for two Oscars: Best Score (Alfred Newman) and Sound (John Aalberg).