Hunchback of Notre Dame [1939]

Director: William Dieterle
Stars: Charles Laughton, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Maureen O'Hara, Edmond O'brien, Walter Hampden
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 117 minutes

Lon Chaney, the man of a thousand faces, was best known for playing Quasimodo and the Phantom of the Opera. But the former role was clearly the most ambitious of his illustrious career, full of such longing and anguish. It's as though his entire being was consumed by this ugly outcast with a heart as big and beautiful as Notre Dame itself. And the makeup is still astonishing. The rest of this unrequited love story is pretty effective as well, with the re-creation of medieval Paris a standout for its lavishness. Like all great silent films, it delivers a poetry of life that is abstract and tangible at the same time. --Bill Desowitz

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