March 28th, 2017


I just published a post about sanctuary cities mayors’ defiance of Trump’s order regarding reporting the arrest of illegal aliens.

But now I want to emphasize the power of the word “sanctuary,” which was originally chosen by the activists behind the movement, I believe, to take advantage of the aura around it. “Sanctuary” implies something connected to the sacred—and it conjures up classic scenes such as this:

That’s for the older folk. That scene—and Laughton’s ringing cry of “Sanctuary!”—sent chills up my spine as a little girl when I first saw it, and it does the same thing now. For the young of more recent years, though, there’s this rendition of the exact same scene:

Animation has the freedom to show just about anything. All the animators have to do is imagine it and then draw it (or computer-generate it). If they want Quasimodo to swing on that rope, they draw it and don’t have to worry about having a living person do some sort of clever (but perhaps risky) stunt.

But for my tastes, the live action film has it all over the cartoon, in both its power and its appeal to the imagination. When Quasimodo holds the real live Esmeralda over that real live crowd (even if some sort of trick is used to simulate it and he’s not really holding her way up high), the cartoon can’t even begin to achieve the same effect. Note, also, the emphasis in the older film on the ecstatic reaction of the crowd, a joy and fervor in which we are encouraged to join.

And Charles Laughton in that role has it all over everybody, now and forever.

5 Responses to “Sanctuary!”

  1. M J R Says:

    “And Charles Laughton in that role has it all over everybody, now and forever.”

    I second that emotion!

  2. parker Says:

    The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a classic that we watch every few years. Laughton does own the role. I remember seeing it as a teen and coming away from the experience wanting to read the book, which I did and also enjoyed. I turned the read into a book report in 10th grade literature class.

  3. J.J. Says:

    Charles Laughton as the Hunchback of Notre Dame certainly does bring back memories of a different time. Was my childhood really as wonderful as I remember?

    The films had plots, character development, and were intended to educate and provide entertainment. It was a time when our front door was never locked and, in fact, the keys were always in the old beater car my parents owned. Left home after breakfast and often never came home until supper. If you got out of line, any adult in town felt free to chastise you and report you to your parents. Good times, good times indeed.

  4. OlderandWheezier Says:

    Laughton was a genius. It’s a shame that the only film he directed (Night of the Hunter) was panned at the time, and dissuaded him from future efforts.

    I’ve collected a trio of lesser-known Laughton films over the past few years, after catching all or parts of them on Turner Classic Films – “Ruggles of Red Gap”, “Hobson’s Choice”, and “Rembrandt.” They don’t get old.

  5. AesopFan Says:

    This version takes a LOT of liberties with the book (they all do), but I enjoyed it for its own merits. Patinkin was very good as Quasimodo, which may surprise anyone who has only seen The Princess

    Though he does not sing in “The Hunchback,” it comes as no surprise that music analogies color the actor/singer’s conversation like a flurry of notes on a song sheet. The Broadway star (“Evita”) chooses an analogy to describe how Laughton became his blueprint for Quasimodo:

    “I felt I can’t do any better than Laughton, so I watched it (the 1939 film) almost every day when we were shooting. I followed it wherever I could; it just bled into me. My feeling was that it was like Mozart or Sondheim. They write music. Different people sing it, a different conductor conducts it, and it sounds different. I sung the notes that Laughton wrote. I’m a different person, I have a different voice, it will be different.”

    Patinkin did, in fact, fashion a Quasimodo that is all his own. …

    “Do you want me to tell you my favorite?” he offers, in a discussion covering the film’s classic themes.

    There is a line when he has Esmeralda in sanctuary up in the tower, ‘If you don’t leave here, they can’t catch you. No one can get in here, I wouldn’t let them. If you’re afraid, pull the rope, I can hear the bell.’ ” Patinkin feels these lines contain the essence of the film.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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