Silent Movie Mondays

Before the animated Disney musical version, before the Charles Laughton sound version, there was the 1923 silent version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney. All of which organist Dennis James should explain in his pre-show remarks to the first of four installments in Trader Joe’s Silent Movie Mondays (through Jan. 26). Then he’ll provide live accompaniment to the film—possibly too scary for younger kids, given Chaney’s fright makeup—on the Wurlitzer organ. Chaney, branded “the man of a thousand faces” (thanks to the special effects department at Universal), was a huge star of the 1920s, and Hunchback was one of Universal’s costliest pictures. His career basically ended with the advent of sound (he died in 1930), and his acting reflects turn-of-the-century stage and pantomime conventions. If Laughton brought anguished psychological realism to the iconic role of Quasimodo, and if Disney later brought us, ahem, Demi Moore and songs like “A Guy Like You,” Chaney conveys the deformed outcast’s physical torment. He is tortured, abused, reviled in 15th-century Paris…yet still capable of love, or at least infatuation, when he spies lovely dancing Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller). Later, son Lon Chaney Jr. would anchor more Universal horror titles like The Mummy. As for the Hunchback franchise, the last remake was a dozen years ago…so maybe it’s time to let, say, Jack Black have a go at the role? (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Mondays, 7 p.m. Starts: Jan. 5. Continues through Jan. 26, 2009

 
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