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Maureen O’Hara Tribute: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Director: William Dieterle

1939. U.S.A. Black and white. 115mins


Of the many film versions of Victor Hugo’s novel, this classic from Hollywood’s golden year of 1939 remains the best, rivalled only by the 1923 silent version starring Lon Chaney. In his triumphant attempt to create a performance as memorable as Chaney’s, Charles Laughton played the lovelorn Parisian hunchback Quasimodo under a disfiguring costume and gruesome makeup that rendered the actor almost unrecognizable. The result is a gripping and heartfelt portrayal of the misshapen bell ringer who falls desperately in love with the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda (played by Maureen O’Hara). The lavish production also greatly benefits from exquisitely moody black-and-white cinematography, brilliant medieval set design, and the atmospheric direction by German expatriate William Dieterle, whose style was heavily influenced by German Expressionism.

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