Project Hitch has officially begun. Last night Morgan and I sat down and watched the 1925 film, The Pleasure Garden. The Pleasure Garden has the distinction of being the first film that Alfred Hitchcock worked on with a legitimate director’s credit. It was his directorial debut, if you will. He had, of course, worked on various other films but this was the film that would start his legacy.
The Pleasure Garden, being from 1925, is of course a silent film and one that (if you’re not familiar with silent films) may be a decent place to start. The film follows the story of two chorus girls, Patsy and Jill. Jill arrives in London with the idea of becoming a chorus girl for a place known as The Pleasure Garden (hence the title of our film) but finds herself in a bit of a bind when the first thing to happen to her is an unceremonious pickpocketing, leaving her penniless. Luckily for Jill, established chorus girl, Patsy has a heart of gold (seriously, this girl is properly lovely) and instantly takes her under her wing, allowing her to stay at her apartment and taking her to work with her so she has the chance to convince (the insufferable) Mr Hamilton that she is chorus girl material.
I have to admit that the first half of the film (at least for me) took a little bit of deciphering. In the opening scene we see Patsy performing with the other dancers for a rather excited audience of men, one of whom asks to be introduced to Patsy after the performance. Patsy wears a blonde wig onstage but when at home has short dark hair, very similar to Jill’s (making the two lead girls easily confusable in my mind).
As the film progresses the vast differences between Patsy and Jill become apparent. Early on we are introduced to Jill’s lovely finance, Hugh and his lecherous colleague, Levet (honestly I hate everything about this man!). The two are only in London briefly as their current work is in Africa. Hugh is forced to return to work first leaving Jill plenty of time to forget about him and focus on her own selfish gains in regards to what she calls becoming a “star” and spending time with rich and powerful men, including a prince.
While Jill is busy climbing social ranks, Patsy spends more time with the horrible, Levet. Blind to his true nature, Patsy agrees to marry him but remain in London while he works. A perfect arrangement as far as Levet, is concerned since he gets his honeymoon pleasure without being tied down in any tangible way afterwards.
This film is a constant back and forth of utterly repulsive characters coupled with hugely likeable and sweet characters. Patsy is miserable at not having heard from her husband since his return to Africa, only to receive a letter from him weeks later complaining of an illness. Patsy ends up having to borrow money from her very sweet, but poor, married landlords (after being refused help from the selfish, Jill) so as she can go be by her (rubbish) husbands side during his illness.
|Patsy and Hugh staring at the the crazy, Levet|
This is where everything gets very interesting. Patsy arrives in Africa to find Levet shacked up with a native girl. This is the scene that really made me love Patsy. She yells and screams at him and refuses to stay by his side, calling him a “filthy animal!” I loved it. The spineless, Levet attempts to backtrack and cast off his mistress but Patsy won’t take his shit any longer. Her eyes have been opened and she refuses to close them again. Before Patsy leaves for London, she learns that the lovely Hugh is dangerously ill and decides to tend to him. The two become closer and Hugh even kisses her in his feverish state, believing her to be Jill. But wait. Bloody Levet is back. Since Patsy last saw him, he has oh so charmingly drowned his lover and is now furiously jealous that Patsy is tending to Hugh and drags her back to his place.
At this point, this man is pissing me off to no end. Honestly. What now?
|Cue ghostly image|
Well…in his guilty and agitated state he sees a spectral image of the woman he recently drowned (which, by the way was a seriously impressive effect!) and is convinced that she won’t rest until he runs Patsy through with a sword. Right. Of course. Seriously, this guy! Luckily, Hugh is worried about Patsy and sends someone to make sure she’s okay, resulting in Levet getting what’s coming to him and Hugh and Patsy admitting their mad love and attraction for one another.
Now, a part of this film that I haven’t mentioned, and possibly my favourite touch to the whole thing, is Patsy’s adorable dog, Cuddles who throughout the film has shown an affinity for Hugh and an utter hatred for the douche, known as Levet. Now, at the end when Patsy and Hugh return to London, happy, healthy and in love we get an adorable rom com moment of “Cuddles knew all the time!” which utterly cracked me up and was actually a much needed relief after the drama of the Africa scenes.
In all I really enjoyed The Pleasure Garden and enjoyed seeing snippets of the things that Hitchcock would become known for in the future.
#ProjectHitch is off to a great start. We may only be one movie down, but so far I am loving it. Be sure to check back next week when we watch the most loved of Hitch’s silent films, The Lodger from 1927.