This second film version of the Victor Hugo novel Notre-Dame de Paris (the first was a Theda Bara vehicle, The Dancer of Paris – now considered lost) was a super-duper-spectacular
This second film version of the Victor Hugo novel Notre-Dame de Paris (the first was a Theda Bara vehicle, The Dancer of Paris – now considered lost) was a super-duper-spectacular as only the Hollywood of the 1920s could make them, but it’s never so large that it dwarfs the contribution of its star, Lon Chaney. As the hunchbacked bellringer Quasimodo, Chaney adorned himself with a special device that made his cheeks jut out grotesquely, a contact lens that blanked out one of his eyes, and a huge rubber hump covered with coarse animal fur that weighed almost 50 pounds.
Set in the walled city of Paris in the 16th century, the story is set in motion when the evil Jehan (Brandon Hurst), brother of saintly Notre Dame archdeacon Dom Claude (Nigel De Brulier), orders the dog-like Quasimodo to attempt to kidnap gypsy girl Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller). Quasimodo is captured and flogged for his crime, whereupon Esmeralda shows him kindness – and is sentenced by Jehan to be hanged for her trouble. The climactic scene of the church under siege was filmed at night, requiring the services of literally every arc light in Hollywood at the time. With his star turn in this expensive and epic film, Lon Chaney rose from mere leading player to major star and “the man of a thousand faces.”
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