Oct. 18, 2001
Vol. 21 No. 3

current issue
archive / search

    Bells of Notre Dame will ring through Rockefeller during Hunchback screening

    By Seth Sanders
    News Office

    Lon Chaney as Quasimodo in the 1923 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    The Hunchback of Notre Dame will be in his native habitat at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, when Rockefeller Memorial Chapel will screen the classic silent film by Wallace Worsley, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), with live organ accompaniment.

    This first and most-faithful film version of Victor Hugo’s novel stars Lon Chaney as the tortured hunchback Quasimodo. Half blind, monstrously deformed and ridiculed by a cruel world, Quasimodo dwells within the sanctuary of Notre Dame Cathedral, where he rings the cathedral’s great bells to express his feelings.

    He secretly loves a beautiful gypsy woman named Esmeralda, portrayed by Patsy Ruth Miller, for whom he sacrifices his life when he rescues her from her evil guardian.

    Chaney’s performance, paired with a striking and innovative use of improvised make-up, evoked both terror and pity in its original audiences as it played out against the background of medieval Paris.

    Chicago organist Jay Warren will provide live accompaniment with his own original score on the chapel’s E.M. Skinner organ. Warren, a seasoned musician who has frequently performed for the Pickwick Theatre, is house organist for the Copernicus Center’s Gateway Theatre. Known for a robust performing style, Warren promises to match the mood of this classic film.

    The venue is unusually suited for the film’s subject. Named for University founder John D. Rockefeller, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel is a towering, cathedral-like structure that houses a set of powerful bells. Its spacious halls, festooned with colorful banners, are the center of religious activity for the University. Events range from worship services and religious education classes to academic lectures and performances by world-renowned musicians.

    The chapel also serves as the University’s ceremonial center, where many official University functions are held. Its E.M. Skinner organ and Laura Spelman Rockefeller carillon are among the great instruments of their kind in the country. Rockefeller Memorial Chapel is at 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.

    General admission is $10 and $7 for seniors and students with identification. Tickets will be available at the door, and proceeds support the organ restoration fund.