The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)


Charles Laughton's performance as Quasimodo is the main reason to see this movie. Laughton gives the deformed bell ringer moments of quiet torment as well as unbridled joy, and without ever going over the top - a remarkable feat that should have earned him an Oscar nomination. I also liked Cedric Hardwicke as the malevolent Frollo and Maureen O'Hara (in her screen debut) as Esmerelda, but several of the other cast members act as though they are playing cartoon characters (Harry Davenport is the worst offender). The film could have benefited from a more genuine period setting and a more earnest supporting cast. Director William Dieterle bestows the film with some elegance, though it's not nearly as polished as his later work on The Devil and Daniel Webster.

Oscar nominations: Best Score (Alfred Newman), Best Sound

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