The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

The film stars “The Man of Thousand Faces”, Lon Chaney Sr. as Quasimodo. The father of Lon Chaney Jr., who is of werewolf fame. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1923 American drama film starring Lon Chaney Sr. The film was Universal’s “Super Jewel” of 1923 and was their most successful silent film, grossing $3.5 million.

The film is based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel and is notable for the grand sets that recall 15th century Paris as well as for Chaney’s performance and make-up as the tortured hunchback Quasimodo. This film elevated Chaney, who was already a well-known character actor. After this film he was considered a mega star in Hollywood. The film also helped set a standard for many later horror films. Which included Chaney’s The Phantom of the Opera in 1925.

Hunchback of Notre Dame (Full Version)
(best viewed when opened in YouTube)

The only surviving prints of the Hunchback of Notre Dame are 16mm “show-at-home” prints distributed by Universal in the 1920s and 1930s for home-movie purposes. No original nitrate 35mm negatives or prints exist. Most video editions of the film are derived from 16mm duplicate prints.

Before the film was scheduled to shoot, Lon Chaney Sr. was the industry favorite to play the role of Quasimodo. Chaney inspired to play the role of Quasimodo. There were even claimed that Chaney considered organizing a company to make the film abroad. It is known that Chaney had acquired the rights to produce the film several years prior and had been actively engaged in negotiating the production with Universal. In April 1922, Chelsea Pictures announced that Lon Chaney would star in the role of Quasimodo. But the film failed to be made by Chelsea and the company disappeared without making any releases. Universal, formally announced the production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in August 1922. Chaney’s ownership of the film rights allowed him contractual freedom for artistic approval and control of this production. Chaney was an uncredited, de facto producer.

Leonidas Frank “Lon” Chaney was an American stage and film actor, make-up artist, director, and screenwriter. He is regarded as one of the most versatile and powerful actors of cinema, renowned for his characterizations of tortured, often grotesque and afflicted characters, and his groundbreaking artistry with makeup. His life was portrayed in the 1957 film โ€œThe Man of Thousands Faces.โ€

Born: April 1, 1883, Colorado Springs, CO
Died: August 26, 1930, Los Angeles, CA
Place of burial: Forest Lawn, CA

Movie Night – Hunchback of Notre Dame (Full Movie)

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2 thoughts on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

  1. You can only love and appreciate Chaney’s work. Cool that you mentioned Man of a Thousand Faces. I watched that movie when I was a kid and loved it. I remember the scene where Chaney’s wife visits him on the set of Hunchback and he is sitting there talking to her in full makeup and costume. It’s awesome.

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