Victor Hugo - on the Screen

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) poster
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) poster
Victor Hugo - Portrait
Victor Hugo - Portrait

Quick facts. One of France's most famous authors and poets, Victor Hugo was born in Besancon, France on February 26, 1802.

He married his childhood sweetheart Adele in 1822, they had 4 children.

His first full length novel was "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" which was published in 1831. It was a huge success and was translated into many languages.

The novel turned the Notre Dame Cathedral into a major tourist attraction.

Victor Hugo wrote over 100 books in his lifetime and over 200 poems.

Considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century "Les Miserables" was published in 1862. One of the longest novels ever written at about 1500 pages and 365 chapters, it's about the same size as Tolstoy's "War and Peace". The French edition was even longer.

Unusually "Les Miserables" retained it's French title for the English language edition instead of being renamed "The Miserables" or "The Miserable Ones".

Victor Hugo died in 1885 at the age of 83. He was mourned all over France and millions paid tribute to him.

This hub looks at movies based on his work, with quotes, facts and photos.



Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Lon Chaney and Patsy Ruth Miller in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Lon Chaney and Patsy Ruth Miller in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) poster
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) poster

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) Directed by Wallace Worsley. 100mins.

Lon Chaney - Quasimodo
Patsy Ruth Miller - Esmeralda
Nigel De Brulier - Frollo

Also starring Norman Kerry, Kate Lester and Winifred Bryson.

Based on the novel "Notre-Dame de Paris" by Victor Hugo, first published in 1831.

In the novel the hunchback Quasimodo was a secondary character, Esmeralda the gypsy girl and the evil Archdeacon Claude Frollo were the lead characters.

In the movies Quasimodo became the protagonist.

The success of The Hunchback of Notre Dame made Lon Chaney ("The man of a thousand faces") a Hollywood star, two years later The Phantom of the Opera turned him into a horror icon.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame cost $1,250,000 to produce and was the most successful film from Universal Studios at the time grossing over $3m worldwide.

A newly restored print of the film was released on DVD in 2007.

IMDB rating 7.3

Quasimodo: Why was I not made of stone, like thee?

The Man Who Laughs (1928) poster
The Man Who Laughs (1928) poster
The Man Who Laughs (1928) poster
The Man Who Laughs (1928) poster

The Man Who Laughs (1928) Directed by Paul Leni. 110mins.

Starring Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin, Olga Baclanova, Brandon Hurst and Julius Molnar Jr.

Based on Victor Hugo's novel of the same name, published in 1869.

After his father is condemned to death for offending King James I, Gwynplaine (Veidt) is disfigured by a surgeon on orders from the king, his mouth turned into a permanent grin "to laugh forever at his fool of a father". Gwynplaine falls in love with blind Dea (Philbin).

Lon Chaney was considered for the role of Gwynplaine.

The disfigured hero was one of the main inspirations for Batman villain 'The Joker'.

IMDB rating 7.8

Ursus: [sees Gwynplaine grinning] Stop laughing! Stop laughing I say!
Gwynplaine: I'm not laughing!

Fredric March and Charles Laughton in Les Miserables (1935)
Fredric March and Charles Laughton in Les Miserables (1935)
Les Miserables (1935)
Les Miserables (1935)

Les Miserables (1935) Directed by Richard Boleslawski. 108mins.

Fredric March - Jean Valjean
Charles Laughton - Inspector Javert
Rochelle Hudson - Cosette
Florence Eldridge - Fantine

Also starring Cedric Hardwicke, John Beal and Frances Drake.

Based on Victor Hugo's historical novel first published in 1862, it became a worldwide success.

Originally imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, Valjean is released on parole and escapes, he is relentlessly pursued by the cold-blooded Inspector Javert.

Nominated for 4 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Assistant Director.

IMDB rating 7.7

Jean Valjean: You never temper justice with mercy?
Inspector Javert: No, we might as well understand each other, I administer the law - good, bad, or indifferent - it's no business of mine, but the law to the letter!
Jean Valjean: I'm ready. All I ask is a few minutes to say good-bye.
Inspector Javert: The law allows you nothing.

Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) poster
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) poster
Charles Laughton as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Charles Laughton as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Maureen O' Hara in The Hunchack of Notre Dame (1939)
Maureen O' Hara in The Hunchack of Notre Dame (1939)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) Directed by William Dieterle. 117mins.

Charles Laughton - Quasimodo
Maureen O'Hara - Esmeralda
Cedric Hardwicke - Frollo

Also starring Thomas Mitchell, Edmond O'Brien, Alan Marshal and Harry Davenport as King Louis XI.

Laughton's second Victor Hugo movie of the 1930s, the hunchback became one of his signature roles.

The make up men took nearly 3 hours to turn Laughton into the grotesque Quasimodo. No publicity photos of the hunchback's face were released before the movie's premiere.

Costing nearly $2m this was one of the most expensive movies made by RKO studios, the replica of the Notre Dame cathedral cost a quarter of a million dollars.

Oscar Nominations for Best Music (Alfred Newman) and Best Sound.

IMDB rating 7.9

Quasimodo: Sanctuary! Sanctuary!

Quasimodo: (To Esmeralda) I never realized till now how ugly I am, because you're so beautiful... I'm about as shapeless as the man on the moon. I'm deaf you know but you can speak to me by signs.

Les Miserables (1952) poster
Les Miserables (1952) poster
Les Miserables (1952) poster
Les Miserables (1952) poster

Les Miserables (1952) Directed by Lewis Milestone. 105mins.

Michael Rennie - Jean Valjean
Robert Newton - Etienne Javert
Debra Paget - Cosette
Sylvia Sidney - Fantine

Also starring Edmund Gwenn, Cameron Mitchell, Elsa Lanchester and Joseph Wiseman.

Michael Rennie is well known to sci-fi fans as the alien Klaatu in the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Robert Newton was popular as Long John Silver in Disney's Treasure Island (1950).

In this version of the story Valjean witnesses Javerts suicide.

IMDB rating 6.9

Sea Devils (1953) poster
Sea Devils (1953) poster
Rock Hudson and Yvonne De Carlo in Sea Devils (1953)
Rock Hudson and Yvonne De Carlo in Sea Devils (1953)

Sea Devils (1953) Directed by Raoul Walsh. 91mins.

Rock Hudson - Gilliatt
Yvonne De Carlo - Droucette

Also starring Maxwell Reed, Denis O'Dea, Michael Goodliffe and Bryan Forbes.

Based on the novel "Toilers of the Sea" by Victor Hugo, first published in 1866.

Historical drama set in the Isle of Guernsey in the year 1800

Filmed in the Channel Islands.

IMDB rating 5.8

Anthony Quinn as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956)
Anthony Quinn as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956) poster
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956) poster
Gina Lollobrigida in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956)
Gina Lollobrigida in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956) Directed by Jean Delannoy. 115mins.

Anthony Quinn - Quasimodo
Gina Lollobrigida - Esmeralda
Alain Cuny - Frollo

Also starring Jean Danet, Robert Hirsch and Danielle Dumont.

A French-Italian co-production and the first version of the story to be filmed in colour and widescreen (Cinemascope).

Unlike other adaptations Esmeralda is killed by an arrow at the finale (in the novel she is hanged, when the griefstricken Quasimodo sees Frollo laughing at her execution he pushes him from the top of the cathedral to his death).

The English language version of the film contained alternate scenes.

Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida were the only cast members who could speak English, the other actors had to be dubbed.

IMDB rating 6.6

Les Miserables (1978) poster
Les Miserables (1978) poster

Les Miserables (1978) Directed by Glenn Jordan. 150mins.

Richard Jordan - Jean Valjean
Anthony Perkins - Inspector Javert
Caroline Langrishe - Cosette
Angela Pleasence - Fantine

Also starring Cyril Cusack, Claude Dauphin, John Gielgud and Ian Holm.

British TV Movie produced by Lew Grade.

Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series or a Special

IMDB rating 7.3

Fantine: You know nothing of me. I am a stranger to you.
Valjean: It was only a stranger who held out a hand to me... once.

Anthony Hopkins as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982)
Anthony Hopkins as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982)
Lesley-Anne Down in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982)
Lesley-Anne Down in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982) Directed by Michael Tuchner. 150mins.

Anthony Hopkins - Quasimodo
Lesley-Anne Down - Esmeralda
Derek Jacobi - Frollo

Also starring David Suchet, John Gielgud, Robert Powell and Nigel Hawthorne.

Made for TV movie shown as part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame series.

Reportedly it took the make-up department 5 hours each morning to turn Anthony Hopkins into Quasimodo.

Tagline - Evil is in the Eye of the Beholder.

Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special (Anthony Hopkins).

IMDB rating 6.5

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Huncback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Huncback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) poster
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) poster

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) Directed by Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise. 91mins.

Tom Hulce - Quasimodo (voice)
Demi Moore - Esmeralda (voice)
Tony Jay - Frollo (voice)

Also starring Kevin Kline as Phoebus, Paul Kandel and David Ogden Stiers.

Disney animated musical loosely based on the novel "Notre-Dame de Paris" by you know who.

The film received some criticism over it's dark themes with even the song lyrics including words like 'strumpet', 'damnation' and 'hellfire'.

Two of the gargoyles in the film are named Victor and Hugo.

"Disney's darkest picture, with a pervading atmosphere of racial tension, religious bigotry and mob hysteria" The Daily Mail.

A sequel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame II" was released direct to video, this time Quasimodo is given a romantic interest and... they all live happily ever after.

Oscar Nomination for Best Music Score (Alan Menken)

Golden Globe Nomination for Best Music (Alan Menken).

Cost $100m - Box Office $325.3m

IMDB rating 6.7

Phoebus: Oh, and one more thing: tell Esmeralda - she's very lucky.
Quasimodo: Why?
Phoebus: To have a friend like you.

Frollo: [singing] God have mercy on her / God have mercy on me / But she will be mine or she... will... BURN!

Mandy Patinkin and Salma Hayek in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1997)
Mandy Patinkin and Salma Hayek in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1997)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1997) poster
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1997) poster

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1997) US Title: The Hunchback. Directed by Peter Medak. 98mins.

Mandy Patinkin - Quasimodo
Salma Hayek - Esmeralda
Richard Harris - Frollo

Also starring Edward Atterton, Benedick Blythe, Nigel Terry and Jim Dale.

Paris. The year 1480.

"The bells... the bells! They deafen me!" And another adaptation of Hugo's novel, this one premiered on the TNT Channel in the U.S.

"Mr. Patinkin, never known for his subtlety as a performer, is here surprisingly restrained, perhaps by the pounds of makeup he labors under. His Quasimodo is a gentle and quite moving creature, Ms. Hayek is earnestly affecting. But it is Mr. Harris who walks away with most of the film, flagellating himself for his passion for Esmeralda and being as viciously cold as any imperious cleric Mr. Harris may have come across growing up in Ireland." New York Times.

Nominated for 4 Primetime Emmy Awards.

IMDB rating 6.1

Geoffrey Rush and Liam Neeson in Les Miserables (1998)
Geoffrey Rush and Liam Neeson in Les Miserables (1998)
Les Miserables (1998) poster
Les Miserables (1998) poster

Les Miserables (1998) Directed by Bille August. 134mins.

Liam Neeson - Jean Valjean
Geoffrey Rush - Inspector Javert
Uma Thurman - Fantine
Claire Danes - Cosette

Also starring Hans Matheson, Jon Kenny and Gillian Hanna.

Big screen version of the old story which was well received and perhaps mercifully did not require Neeson or Rush to sing their lines.

"The film stages its political turmoil strongly enough to give it contemporary resonance, and subtly enough to keep the central story in focus. The essence of Hugo's morality tale remains pure, and so does the value of a vigorous, gripping story, straightforwardly told." Janet Maslin, New York Times

Filmed in Prague.

Music by Basil Poledouris.

Tagline - The legend comes to life.

Box Office - $14m

IMDB rating 7.3

Jean Valjean: When you're better, I'll find work for you.
Fantine: But you don't understand, I'm a whore... and Cosette has no father.
Jean Valjean: She has the Lord. He is her father. And you're his creation. In his eyes, you have never been anything but an innocent and... beautiful woman.

Les Miserables (2012) poster
Les Miserables (2012) poster
Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne in Les Miserables (2012)
Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne in Les Miserables (2012)
Les Miserables (2012) poster
Les Miserables (2012) poster
Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables (2012)
Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables (2012)
Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables (2012)
Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables (2012)

Les Miserables (2012) Directed by Tom Hooper. 158mins.

Hugh Jackman - Jean Valjean
Russell Crowe - Inspector Javert
Anne Hathaway - Fantine
Amanda Seyfried - Cosette

Also starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne.

Award-winning and critically acclaimed musical version of Victor Hugo's classic novel which originated as a French-language concept album which became a stage musical opening in Paris in 1980, the English-language version opened in London's West End in 1985 where it became a phenomenon. Les Miserables is still playing in London and is the second longest running West End show after The Mouse-Trap.

On Broadway it opened in 1987 and finished its run in 2003, the 4th longest running Broadway show in history.

Paul Bettany was considered for Inspector Javert for the film version.

Amy Adams and Kate Winslet were considered for Fantine.

Emma Watson was considered for Cosette.

Unusually all the singing was done live on set with the actors listening to music through earpieces. The director Tom Hooper explained why he did it this way: "I just felt ultimately, it was a more natural way of doing it. You know, when actors do dialogue, they have freedom in time, they have freedom in pacing. They can stop for a moment, they can speed up. I simply wanted to give the actors the normal freedoms that they would have. If they need a bit for an emotion or a feeling to form in the eyes before they sing, I can take that time. If they cry, they can cry through a song."

Nominated for 8 Oscars including Best Picture, winning 3 - Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway), Best Make Up and Best Sound Mixing.

Nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards winning 3 - Best Film Musical / Comedy, Best Actor Musical / Comedy (Hugh Jackman) and Best Supporting Actress Musical / Comedy (Anne Hathaway).

Cost $61m - Box Office $411m

IMDB rating 7.9

Javert: Follow to the letter your itinerary, this badge of shame you wear until you die. It warns that you're a dangerous man
Jean Valjean: I stole a loaf of bread. My sisters child was close to death, and we were starving...
Javert: And you will starve again unless you learn the meaning of the law 24601.
Jean Valjean: My name is Jean Valjean!
Javert: And I'm Javert! Do not forget my name. Do not forget me, 24601.

Les Miserables (2012) poster
Les Miserables (2012) poster

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Comments 10 comments

BesaksTriviaStop profile image

BesaksTriviaStop 3 years ago from Alaska normally, East Coast currently

My thoughts while reading your hub....(1) I have to admit I am not too familiar with the works of Victor Hugo (2) Maureen O'Hara has been around forever....and she is still around today...I hope she makes it to 100 (3) Wow he wrote a book that is even longer than War and Peace...now that is impressive (4) That is awesome makeup on Charles Laughton in the 1939 film (5) Wow I have not seen any of these movies....not a single one...it is possible that when I see the latest Les Miserables it will be the first Victor Hugo novel into film ever. (6) For some reason I now want to see 1956's The Hunchback of Notre Dame...and the Gina Lollobrigida photo has nothing to do with it...lol. (7) Thanks for all of this information on Victor Hugo....your hub has me thinking maybe I do not know very much about movies....that is a compliment.

Voted up and interesting and educational.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Bruce, Mhatter99, thanks for commenting on my Victor Hugo hub, most appreciated.

"Interesting and educational" merci beaucoup mon ami. My favourite Victor Hugo film is the 1939 Charles Laughton Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was quite an epic production back then and Laughton is very sympathetic as the deformed bellringer of Notre Dame.

It's been years since I last saw the Anthony Quinn / Lollobrigida version, I would like to see a remastered widescreen version one day.

Les Miserables, despite it's 1500 pages is basically the story of a man who steals a loaf of bread, sent to prison for it, keeps escaping and is relentlessly pursued by a brutal, cold-blooded lawman. Valjean and Javert are the two protagonists of the story. I liked the musical version but there was just too much darn singing, nearly every single line of dialogue is sung! It's like an opera!

Thanks as always for posting.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Oh you so covered Victor Hugo...there were a few here I didn't see but I did see most of them. He wrote over 100 books? Wow, that's impressive. The hunchback always made me cry no matter who played him. Of course I cried in each version of Les Miserables as well. I think my favorite might have been the one with Liam Neeson but they were all good so its hard to pick.

As always, Steve, a pleasure to read and every one of your hubs gives me something new to think about!

Voted up, useful, awesome, and very interesting.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Wow another true masterpiece and I vote 'Up up and away !'

Here's to many more to follow.

Enjoy your day.

Eddy.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Mary, Eiddwen, thank you both for your comments, votes and kind words, very much appreciated.

At one time this hub was going to be titled "The Hunchback of Notre Dame - on the Screen" but than I thought what about Victor Hugo's other great book 'Les Miserables'? especially with the new movie musical out on release, I changed the title. :)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Either way, a hit my friend.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Mary. I think I'll give famous authors a break for now and carry on with my movie poster hubs.


GetitScene profile image

GetitScene 3 years ago from The High Seas

Voted up. Excellent hub.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks GetitScene, appreciate the comment and vote.

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