See, told you I’d be getting to The Pleasure Garden soon (though when I wrote that yesterday I had no intention of it being quite so soon, I just ran out of time to watch anything longer than an hour. All praise YouTube!).
Patsy (Virginia Valli) is a chorus line girl at a theatre known as The Pleasure Garden, which is run by Mr. Hamilton (Georg H. Schnell). One day a new girl, Jill (Carmelita Geraghty), arrives, but she’s had her introductory letter stolen along with all her money, so Patsy offers her a place to stay for the night. The next day, after Patsy puts in a good word and Jill haggles with Hamilton, Jill is offered a shot at dancing and, despite never having danced professionally before, she secures herself a place not just as one of the backing dancers, but as a starring attraction. Jill stays with Patsy in her small flat (even sharing a bed, which they do on their first night together as perfect strangers, it was a different time back then), and when Jill’s fiancé Hugh (John Stuart) visits, Patsy is soon set up with his colleague Levett (Miles Mander). Hugh has to go abroad on business for two years, and requests Patsy prevent Jill from going off the rails, but Jill’s newfound fame and fortune soon go to her head, leading her down a dark path. Meanwhile, Patsy and Levett marry, with the intention of waiting for one another and being together once he is back from his similar work trip.
This is regarded as Hitchcock’s first solo feature-length directorial effort, and it shows. The story is very rough, particularly in the way that many plot strands are left hanging, such as what actually happens to Jill, whom the plot abandons two-thirds of the way in. The tone feels wildly uneven, being for the most part centred around melodramatic romance with odd moments of comedy – Jill’s dog Cuddles licks Patsy’s feet whilst she attempts to pray – before in the end deciding it wants to add some tension for the final act, and even throws a haunting in for good measure, because why not? Characters completely change their entire personality as the plot requires, and the two lead female roles look almost identical, even with the same hairstyle, so I had to rely on one of them being referred to by name to have any clue as to who was whom in each scene. Also, there were numerous superfluous title cards (the most unnecessary of which simply stated “I’m so happy!” which should be quite clear to anyone, due to that character’s enormous smile as they say the line, and one of my biggest pet peeves in silent films occurred when the all-organ score played over a scene in which there’s a band quite clearly playing banjos and saxophones.That being said, some of the story elements were decent, and it didn’t fall into the now-cliché pit of Patsy becoming jealous of Jill’s success; the former remained happy for her friend’s fame and fortune, and didn’t make a big deal of the fact that Jill would have none of her achievements were it not for Patsy’s initial kindness, which made Jill’s lack of gratitude all the more painful to watch. Other than that, this is clearly an early, unpolished work, that was understandably held back by the producers until Hitchcock’s later, and far superior, The Lodger.
Choose Life 4/10