Archive for Raymond Hatton

A guy like you

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2022 by dcairns

A lyric from Disney’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME there, but what we’re looking at tonight is the Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema of the Universal/Lon Chaney version. Which comes equipped with Kim Newman and Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Jones extras. Which are great. But it’s the film you’d buy it for.

A century of abuse has applied to this film a patina of scratches and scars, but the video upgrade allows us to see the film beneath them with far greater clarity than in all those public domain DVDs, and that includes being able to see the PERFORMANCES, which is the best reason in this case for restoring the thing. The impressive sets — which employed both Charles D Hall and Charles Gemora — are amazing, but Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, and grotesque woodblocks Nigel De Brulier, Brandon Hurst, Ernest Torrence, Raymond Hatton and Tully Marshall, make the human side of it vivid also.

Newman mentions in his bit that Lon Chaney Jr finally got to don a version of his dad’s Quasimodo makeup in an episode of Route 66, also featuring Karloff and Lorre. Here it is — the hunchback’s shamble-on appearance is the first thing we see.

The Monday Intertitle: His Groping Soul

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2013 by dcairns


Our Lon Chaney binge reached a fitting climax with a screening of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME at the Usher Hall (surrounded by people in fancy dress, for it was All Hallows’ Eve, an occasion we take seriously in Scotland) with live organ accompaniment by Donald Mackenzie.

The Usher Hall’s organ is massive — no sniggering! —  it towered from behind the screen, which itself must have been sixteen foot high. There are sixty settings, sixty different sounds it can make, and Mackenzie had to play it with both hands and feet — fortunately his score was improvised, so he didn’t have to follow sheet music at the same time, just the action on his monitor. Though extemporaneous, it did incorporate some well-known classical bits, as well as the original love theme which formed part of the film’s original score upon release.


These screenings attract a big crowd — the joint was packed — the Film Festival, based right across the road, ought to put on an Usher Hall silent every summer — and the audience is not one particularly familiar with silent pictures. Mackenzie’s introduction stressed that while some of the acting might seem humorous today, the film was not a comedy. People did laugh, but never at Chaney, who rivets. It’s a very different performance from Laughton, and though I prefer the 1939 version in absolutely every single respect, Chaney’s very physical, ape-like approach is effective. Fiona was convinced he must have been studying chimpanzees at the zoo, and he even beats his chest at one point. Gargoyles are the other point of reference, hence his introduction, squatting still as a statue on the facade of the cathedral, and hence all that disgusting tongue work.

Rather than laughing at Quasi, the audience vented its ridicule on Phoebus, which is fair enough I suppose. He can take it. The Disney version makes him a buffoon from the off, and that approach works OK.

The comedy relief poet, Gringoire (Raymond Hatton) might actually be the stand-out performance — he’s robbed of Edmond O’Brien’s best moments in the ’39 version, but grabs his own. He was in 365 movies, by the IMDb’s count — you could watch one a day for a year, in a leap year (admittedly, they’re not quite sure about the numbers). In fact, he may be the most historically well-placed actor ever, appearing in the first Keystone cops short, BANGVILLE POLICE, the first Hollywood feature film, THE SQUAW MAN, the first version of THE CHEAT, the first version of HUNCHBACK, FURY, the US debut of Fritz Lang. He finished his career with IN COLD BLOOD in 1967.


A reminder, meanwhile — above you can see Akira Kurosawa thanking a small boy for appearing in what would be the final shot of the final scene of his final film, MADADAYO. Which I hope to finally watch and write about during the week of December 1st-7th, since that is when THE LATE SHOW: The Late Movies Blogathon will be happening here. There are some groovy people already promising pieces or thinking about it, but this does not mean that YOU are no also welcome. No invitation or official decree is needed, just join in and let me know about it!

The Dramatic Angle #2

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2010 by dcairns

An outlaw considers a possible outcome. Raymond Hatton in William Wyler’s HELL’S HEROES, but of course let’s get the obvious out the way and admit the resemblance to Eli Wallach at the end of THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

Peter B. Kyne’s The Three Godfathers has had a long and unusual screen history, beginning in 1916, then again in 1920. Both silent versions featured Harry Carey, and the second was directed by John Ford.

This 1930 adaptation was Universal’s first soundie made outdoors, and although it suffers a bit from arthritic creak, it explodes into life in several places, notably the showstopping climax.

A 1936 version by Richard Boleslawski stars Chester Morris (who’s only really good in THE BAT WHISPERS, but my goodness he’s good in that) was followed in 1948 by John Ford’s version starring Duke Wayne, regarded as many as definitive. Which didn’t stop the story being recycled in a John Badham TV movie, The Godchild, starring Jack Palance,  an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, and in the excellent anime TOKYO GODFATHERS, which in addition to being a real crowd-pleaser has the merit of doing something new with the story idea (briefly: three outlaws must care for an orphaned infant).

Wyler’s film is an important work in his career — never a sentimentalist, he’s able to ease his way into the soppiness here through the notably abrasive characterization at the start, where the bad men truly are unredeemably bad. And in fact, only one of them really redeems himself. This was perhaps Wyler’s biggest and most prestigious film to date — he’d begun his career with a slew of western shorts (many now lost) that had him “lying awake nights trying to think of new ways to shoot a man getting off a horse.” The experience paid off here.

Wyler’s early career is a bit neglected, I’d say. His mature work won so many Oscars it eclipsed his early years completely. And the people who care about Oscars only care about the later films, while sometimes I think the people who don’t care about Oscars undervalue WW because he won so many (not so much for himself, but for many many of his actors). Better to ignore the awards and watch the films.