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Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Updated on September 26, 2014

Claude Frollo

The Hunchback of Notre Dame has been adapted since 1836 when it was first made into an Opera and there have been many different film and musical versions. None of the adaptations are 100% accurate to the book in terms of some plot points and characters. Frollo's characterization has never portrayed as the author Victor Hugo described.

Let's look through the major movies and one popular musical of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and look at the portrayal of Frollo and the actors that have played him.

Claude Frollo
Claude Frollo

Frollo a la Victor Hugo

SPOILERS

Claude Frollo is the most misunderstood characters in term of how the various version depict him. he is the catalyst of the story, if it wasn't him the story would have ended after the Feast of Fools. Let's start off with a little backstory, Frollo was born a low grade noble. Frollo was sent to join the clergy at a young age. As a child he was sad, sober and serious. He preferred studying to playing. He dedicated himself to learning and was a fast leaner. His joy in life was gaining knowledge and above all was science and medicine. When he was 18, which was 1466, a plague killed his parents. His parents had just had an infant son, named Jehan. Frollo raised him and showered his devotion. It was around this time that Frollo adopted Quasimodo. He did because he felt pity for him and did it because of his younger brother, if it hadn't been for Frollo, Jehan would be in the Foundling crib just like Quasimodo.

Over the years Jehan, Quasimodo and science turned disappointing to Frollo and he become more morose. Frollo obsesses nature turned to Esmeralda, a young Gypsy girl who he had seen dancing in front of Notre Dame. Prior to that Frollo had always tried to avoid women and he was successful but Esmeralda prove too beautiful for him. He resolved to see her again in hopes that his initial impression of her would scattered but once he saw her again he wanted to see again and again and he started stalking her. He tried to forget her and order her ban from performing in front of Notre Dame, which she still continued. It wasn't till the Feast of Fools that he acted, when he used Quasimodo to kidnap her, which is when she met Phoebus.

Regarding Frollo's looks, he is balding that forms a natural tonsure. His remaining hair is gray and has a prominent high brow.

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Brandon Hurst as Jehan Frollo
Brandon Hurst as Jehan Frollo

Brandon Hurst

1923 version

Brandon Hurst technically plays Jehan Frollo in the 1923 Lon Chaney version of Hunchback of Notre Dame directed by Wallace Worsley. The criteria for Frollo is that he must be obsessed with Esmeralda and Quasimodo's care giver, which Hurst Frollo is.

Hurst as Frollo is scheming and manipulative. He is very fixated on Esmeralda and gaining power and he will say or do anything to achieve those means.

Hurst's Frollo is very black, no shades of gray in this performance. There is no hint given as to why he adopted Quasimodo but the relationship isn't a particular strong since Quasimodo hates Frollo after Frollo betrayed Quasimodo and left Quasimodo get punished for kidnapping Esmeralda. relationship

Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Jehan Frollo
Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Jehan Frollo

Sir Cedric Hardwicke

1939 Version

Sir Cedic Hardwicke played Jehan Frollo in in the Charles Laughton version in 1939 directed by William Dieterle. Like the 1923 version, Hardwicke actually plays the younger brother Jehan and like a certain other version, he is High Justice (Judge) of Paris.

Frollo hates modernity and Gypsies, he wants nothing more than to see the Gypsy out of Paris permanently along with the evil printing press. While he stern and cold he did take Quasimodo in but he is disappointed with Quasimodo mainly for not listening him 100%.

Frollo is obsessed with Esmeralda but his torture is underdone and sedate. He resolve that she must die in record time, he has a chat with her, tries to find her, finds her and confesses his feeling and when that fails to work he murder Phoebus and decides to she must die.

Alain Cuny as Claude Frollo
Alain Cuny as Claude Frollo

Alain Cuny

1956 version

Alian Cuny played Frollo in the 1956 version of Hunchback of Notre Dame version directed by Jean Delannoy.

He is the first since the before 1923 where Frollo is a priest. Not only is he a priest but he also practices alchemy.

In regards to Cuny's performances, he plays Frollo very closely to original book, his torment for loving Esmeralda is very apparent. The only thing is while Frollo is not exactly old, he was 36 in book, but he is supposed to look old, with an almost bald head and he not suppose to be attractive. Cuny looks too young and handsome, with a quick wardrobe change he could have passed for Phoebus.

Kenneth Haigh as Frollo
Kenneth Haigh as Frollo

Kenneth Haigh

1976

Kenneth Haigh played Frollo in the 1976 British TV series directed by Alan Cooke.

Haigh's Frollo is a priest and does practices Alchemy. He plays the role straight and to the book. Like many over Frollos, Haigh feels too young and not austere enough for the role.

Derek Jacobi as Claude Frollo
Derek Jacobi as Claude Frollo

Derek Jacobi

1982 version

Derek Jacobi plays Claude Frollo in the 1982 British-American TV movie of Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was directed Michael Tuchner and Alan Hume.

Jacobi's Frollo falls into instant infatuation with Esmeralda the second he sees her. He tries very quickly to get close to Esmeralda and when that fails he then tries to kidnap her, he then tries to buy Esmeralda from Gringoire, and he does all the other Frollo motion ( jail scene, appeal before hanging and more or less the Port Rouge scene). Jacobi does a good job as Frollo he seems not in full control of his emotions and very desperate.

Jacobi get one of the weakest death scene for Frollo, classical Frollo is throw off Notre Dame by Quasimodo, in the 82 version he is stabbed. In regards to looks. Jacobi also has a full head of hair even though I think they design is trying to be a tonsure.

Disney's Judge Claude Frollo voiced by Tony Jay
Disney's Judge Claude Frollo voiced by Tony Jay

Tony Jay

The 1996 Disney version

Disney's version Judge Claude Frollo is voiced by Tony Jay. Much like Hardwicke's Frollo from 1939, Disney's Frollo is a judge who hold great control over Paris. Frollo believes that what ever he does is justified from killing an innocent mother, attempted infanticide, and attempted genocide. Frollo is guilted into raising Quasimodo out of guilt for killing Quasimodo's mother. Frollo like dynamic of their relationship because he is the one who holds the power. In direct opposition to Frollo tight control is Esmeralda. Esmeralda defies Frollo every chance she gets. Frollo hates this and loves this ( though love isn't the correct word). This willfulness that she exhibit towards him fuels his obsession towards her.

Tony Jay voice is great for Frollo, it's cold and stern and there just a hint of evil without ever sounding over-the-top evil

Richard Harris as Dom Frollo
Richard Harris as Dom Frollo

Richard Harris

1997 version

Richard Harris played Dom Frollo the 1997 version called "the Hunchback" directed by Peter Medak. Harris' Frollo is a bit different than the other Frollo, while he wants Esmeralda he is more concerned the evil printing press and seeing it destroyed. The crime to which Esmeralda is accused in the result of Frollo stabbing a man relation to the press with Esmeralda's dagger.

Harris come off very old for Frollo, at least book Frollo has some hair. Harris looks like an emperor Palpatine.

The 1997 Version

Daniel Lavoie as Claude Frollo
Daniel Lavoie as Claude Frollo

Daniel Lavoie

1998 Version (musical)

Daniel Lavoie played Frollo in the oringal cast of the French musical Notre Dame de Paris written by Richard Cocciante and Luc Plamondon. He is a priest and studies scinece, those are his great loves till he met Esmeralda. Frollo is very tormented by this infatuation with Esmeralda. For Frollo he was proud that he was above earthly emotions so to fall 'love" and to be a priest prove too overwhelming for him. He also fears that his desire is turning him into a criminal and that he'll die in his passion for her and though he losing control he feels no remorse about it. Lavoie acting is very retained and methodically. Lavoie is very expressive in voice and eyes, and his internal conflict is apparent. He never seem to know what to do with hand and this gives a vulnerability not seen in many renditions of Frollos.

Notre Dame de Paris Performance DVD

Richard Berry as Serge Frollo
Richard Berry as Serge Frollo

Richard Berry

1999 Version (Parody)

Richard Berry plays Serge Frollo 1999 parody film called Quasimodo d'El Paris. It was directed by Patrick Timsit ( also staring as Quasimodo). Frollo in this version cares for Quasimodo after Quasimodo wealthy parents trade him in for Esmeralda (renamed Agnes). Frollo is tries to save prostitutes from the fires of hell but his grand scheme is kidnapping women and turning them into gargoyles by encasing them in stone. He thinks this makes people happy. He desires Esmeralda but Frollo was messed up prior to meeting her and he tries to kill her instead of Phoebus, who he does stab.

Unlike other Frollo Berry gives a fun performance in this parody version. Oddly enough this version quotes a rather long line from book almost verbatim.

The Parody Version

A Frollo Poll

Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Frollo with Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939
Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Frollo with Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939

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Which Character from Hunchback is your favorite?

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      My favorite adaptation is the musical, and Lavoie is superb, but I think they make Frollo too evil - he tortures Esmeralda and is too brutal in dungeon scene, which is brilliant scene itself but ... yea. Disney version is overrated - despite Hellfire, story is horribly mangled, especially what comes to the characters of Phoebus and Frollo. Jacobi is quite Frollo-esque - a priest who lusts Esmeralda, tries to rape her, leaves her to death, but also can't stand her pain, feels remorse of his actions etc. Haigh is not bad, Cuny is excellent but script makes too evil - leaves Esmeralda to torture and death without dungeon scene - and Harris gets wonderful Frollo-esque speech to Esmeralda, but script is against him.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Nice lens!!!!! Very informative and FUN!!!!!

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      2envelopparadox 3 years ago

      nice lens

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