|The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Dir: Wallace Worsley
Cast: Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry, Kate Lester, Brandon Hurst
There were many legends of the silent screen, but few could be considered the “face” of their genre. In the 1920s horror had but one name: Lon Chaney, “The Man of a Thousand Faces.” A man so dedicated to creating memorable characters that he’d put his own face through extensive makeup work to transform himself. For the film in question Chaney donned a knotted wig, nose putty, false teeth, a fake eye and a 15lb hump, and yet his performance shines through.
We all know the story to The Hunchback of Notre Dame somewhat. Quasimodo is as a deformed bell-ringer who falls in love with beautiful Esmeralda, he is manipulated by the Archdeacon Frollo, forced to kidnap Esmeralda, gets between the budding romance of Esmeralda and Captain Phoebus, and it ends in tragedy. This version is a fairly faithful adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel and is captured quite nicely with sets that take you right back to the 15th century. Though it’s Chaney’s twisted performance that has made this film the classic it is. Not to mention it’s an early trailblazer for the “Monster falls in love with Woman” sub-genre.
The film would go on to be Universal’s most successful silent film and grossed over $3 million. Chaney would go on to star in perhaps his most notable role as The Phantom of the Opera, but tragically passed away five years later at the age of 47. Today he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a stamp, and perhaps most importantly, a thriving fan base in the horror community.