Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #1: Spiralling into View: The Pleasure Garden (1925)

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I see a juxtaposition of the Chorus girl, who has been around the block and gives the admirer a hard time with his opening line, and the innocence of the girl with the pick pocketed letter of introduction.  I have never seen the film before, but, based on this clip, I could see where the two lives may start to get intertwined or perhaps a case of mistaken identity:  Both of these themes have presented themselves in future films of his. 

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. 

 

Upon first watch of "Pleasure Garden", I noticed the signature Hitchcock point of view shots that are so famous in his work. Whether that be the point of view of the men watching the women on stage, or the woman fumbling for money after it had been stolen, we see the emotion and can tell what the characters are thinking simply through a point of view shot. We also see the infamous focus on blonde women from the jump! I've really enjoyed seeing traces of my favorite "Hitchcock touch" techniques from his early years in film.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career? 

 

I absolutely agree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto that this sequence contains elements we will see throughout Hitchcock's career. Many parts of the sequence reminded me of various films, the busy street scene reminded me of several Hitchcock scenes from various films like Psycho and Vertigo. The point of view shots reminded me of several shots throughout Hitchock's career in films like I Confess and Rear Window.

 

3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue?

 

I do not believe there are any limitations in this film or any silent film in the sense of lack of spoken dialogue. Occasionally I even find that silent films tell more of a story, and require a viewers attention in ways the talkies do not. 

 

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Hitchcock' s use of montage throughout his career demonstrates that he rarely needed dialogue to tell his story. Not to minimize his screenwriters' talents; there are some excellent bits of dialogue in his films, however Hitch knew the power of the image!

 

Some of the themes that appear and that would reappear throughout his career are the images of eyeglasses to represent a viewpoint or perspective and in some cases used to initiate voyeurism.

Also, the motif of the victimized woman at the mercy and control of a male dominated figure is asserted here with the woman whose money is stolen and of course those ogled by the wealthy men in the front row audience during the show.

Stairs as a portal to the next act of a story by obstacle or by journey of the protagonist also reappear through so many of Hitchcock's pictures; Rebecca, Spellbound, Notorious, Suspicion, The Birds, Vertigo and Psycho to name some of the most notable.

 

Finally, a fingerprint on all of Hitchcock's movies, though less a theme and more of a personality affectation is his use of humour to illustrate character; The Impresario smoking a cigar next to the smoking prohibited sign to indicate that the rules do not apply to this person, thus setting a tone for what is to come.

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. 

 

​Most of the examples I saw in the clip were already mentioned in previous posts.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career? 

 

​There appears to be much agreement on this.  From http://www.openculture.com/2013/09/the-pleasure-garden-hitchcock.html,

1925's 

, viewable free in full at the top of this post. This silent adaptation of an Oliver Sandys novel, a British production meant to showcase American star Virginia Valli, plunges into the romantically turbulent milieu of London chorus girls.

It takes that plunge by opening with a sequence critic Dave Kehr calls "a clip reel of Hitchcock motifs to come." Clearly the 26-year-old Hitchcock arrived with his skills and sensibilities in place, but when he took on this project in 1925, he'd already had a bad experience in the film industry: 1922's aborted Number 13 would have given him his first directorial credit, but that production ran out of money when photography had only just begun. The Pleasure Garden itself wouldn't get publicly screened until 1927, after Hitchcock had already had some success with his third feature The Lodger.

3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue?

 

​I didn't see any limitations in this scene, but am posting this article on Hitchcock and sound I found which was interesting. 

 

http://borgus.com/hitch/sound.htm

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I'm not sure that I can add to any of the comments that others have made.  Certainly the voyeur and the male gaze are elements that persist throughout Hitch's films  The sense of humor and the voyeuristic elements with this film and others are evident. The idea that the women are serving as entertainment to the men who assume the role of being in power. He gives us the POV from behind the stage and swings out to join the audience, first by giving us the "line up" of the men peering intently at the performers. And then swinging around to give us the POV from their perspective. It gives the viewer the perspective of the watcher watching the watchers.

 

The shots and concepts in this film certainly presage others in later Hitchcock films.

 

The lack of a dialogue doesn't diminish what can be ascribed non-verbally by gestures, looks and by use of light and framing.

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. 


Definitely. Two of the elements that stood out the most to me were the emphasis on the young blonde girl and the darkness of the exterior shots. These pieces are crucial to later Hitchcock films and I think the separation of light vs. dark is a key element for his depiction of good and evil. To see that light vs. dark may have been used in THE PLEASURE GARDEN is intriguing, even if it is just a happy coincidence.


2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career? 


I agree that there are pieces that will later become crucial to Hitchcock, but I do think it is difficult to assess from a sequence as brief as this. Since Hitch was just starting his career in film, it is certain that he was experimenting with themes, approaches, and elements that he may have potentially used years later. The pieces I mentioned above about the blonde girl and the light vs. dark motif may be examples of how he chose elements that interested him and that he would use in years to come.


3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue?


Not especially. If you think of other Hitchcock films in later years, there are often long stretches with no dialogue but heavy music or sound effects. I think Hitch continued to do that to focus heavily on the actor's facial expressions. Here, that is not as much of a focus, but you can still gather a lot from their facial expressions without dialogue. 


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Hard for me to make comparisons between today's clip and, say, "North By Northwest" but I'm here to learn! Definitely understand that "observing an observer" is a Hitchcockian device as seen in "Rear Window".

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Definetely see some recurring themes throughout Hitchcocks career that have already been discussed above.My first thought was of the binoculars.It took me straight to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window which was the first(and possibly my favorite)Hitchcock film that I ever viewed.Very glad to be part of this class.

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence?

 

So many good observations so far! For me, I find that -- while there are elements of both touch and theme at play here -- I would be hard pressed to "know" it's Hitchcock without explicitly being told, unlike many of his later films which just do have that certain feel.

 

Interesting elements to me as far as "touch":

 

  • Even from this early stage, one can see the incredible fluidity of his films, which only increases as the technology improves. Many films of this era make use of panning and focus pulls, etc., but seldom to such a pleasant rhythm. His camera style certainly feels more "at home" with a modern viewer than many other films of the era, and one rarely gets "lost" in his visual storytelling. That ability, honed during the silent era, serves him well throughout his career.
  • The visual humor has been mentioned, but one aspect of Hitchcock's films I have always enjoyed is the relative subtlety of said humor. His visual bits are more akin to chuckles than belly laughs, and a viewer may not even catch them all, giving an overall effect of dissolving only some of the tension.
     

2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career?

 

Again, I think you do see some of these themes and elements, perhaps in a sort of nascent state. I have wondered whether his preoccupation with blondes is down to how well they photographed in the nitrate era. Is it all simply a fault of the lights? ;)
 

3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue?

 

Limitations, perhaps not, but Hitchcock as a filmmaker seemed to be one willing to adapt and make use of new technologies. It's only natural to wonder what additional layers sound could have added. I personally find the over-expressive silent film-style acting to be distancing (this is not to say all silent film acting is that way, but it often is), so that can be a limitation for me (not necessarily the films themselves).

 

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1. Yes I see the beginning of the Hitchcock style in the way he plays with the light, especially the scene outside. Also during the stage scene he doesn't focus on the entire chorus line but the perspective of how the gentlemen in the first row sees it. And focusing on one dancer in particular.

 

2. Yes I agree with them. Even though he is perfecting his art at this stage you can see how he is experimenting with light, movement and even his very dry sense of humor shows through.

 

As with the majority of silent films hismearly films didn't need the spoken word. This comes largely in part to his professional training and working in advertising. He uses this theme throughout his career. A good film doesn't always need a lot of dialog. He became a master of it.

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I'm so happy to be part of this wonderful class.  

 

I agree with Strauss, Yacowar and Spoto that there are elements visible in this first film.  The beautiful blonde, the theatrical milieu, the perspective from the stage wings, the "innocent," the chivalrous male who gets involved, and the humor are all in evidence here.

 

The camera work--the close-up of the chorus' legs, the slow, upward shot of the beautiful chorine, and, of course, the spiral staircase, augur films to come.

 

Overall, I don't think this silent film is terribly limited due to the lack of dialogue, but I would love to have heard the nuances in the actors' voices, especially the chorus girl and the "innocent."

 

Also loved the music, as I would in later Hitchcock films.

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. 

To be very honest I am hoping to learn what the "Hitchcock touch" is through this course. I have watched many Hitchcock films and know what I like about his directing but I find describing the "Hitchcock touch" difficult right now. In watching this clip from "The Pleasure Garden", I immediately thought of the stairwell in the mission in "Vertigo" and thought of Hitchcock's proclivity for blonde female leads in many of his films.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career?

I agree that there are many elements, themes and approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career. Even though this is his first film we see characters that stand out immediately such as the character Mr. Hamilton who is blatantly smoking a cigar in front of  a "No Smoking" (Smoking Prohibited) sign, we see the busy fast paced movement of the dancers down the staircase, the mysterious characters at the stage entrance who steal the letter of introduction, we see things that prove to be not what they appear to be at first sight i.e. the blonde lock of hair that is fake, and we see the narrow focus provided by the binoculars and the blurry vision provided by the monocle.

 

3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue?

Having taken the Slapstick course which addressed silent film, I think that Hitchcock's genius comes out right away in his ability to get his message across in the opening scenes without spoken dialogue. We see the looks, glances, body language that convey the message without sound. I think we will see Hitchcock continuing to get his message across without words. Think of the scene in the open field before the spray plane attack in "North by Northwest" as an example.

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The opening of The Pleasure Garden very quickly displays the absurdity of the male gaze. The women onstage come out from a dizzying staircase, their arms spinning, and their dance - circular and rapid on stage. This is juxtaposed by the men who are seen both on and off stage as still (standing/sitting), yet somewhat bothered. When we actually view the women from the male’s exact point of view as Hitchcock brings us through one of the man’s binoculars, we see the women in terms of body parts: legs. In fact, there is an entire row of older men staring at the younger women onstage. An entire row! The abrupt exit of one of the men to go meet the blonde girl triggers an annoyance and anger when the man steps on everyone's toes. It is clear it is not just the toes getting stepped on that is so upsetting, but rather, it's the interruption and blocking of the entire row of focused gazing, even if just for a moment. The shot then goes to the man smoking a cigar directly in front of the *no smoking* sign, indicating the breaking of rules is normal in this arena and we must assume there are many other broken rules here that remain unenforced.  Of note, when the woman finally glare-stares back at the over-gazer, it is a bit surprising to the viewer and is evidence of a signature scene for Hitchcock. It illustrates the absurdity of this entire situation and how it all makes her feel. Throughout Hitchcock’s films, he has women who either stump or somehow catch their male dominance cohort off guard. I’m thinking of Dial M for Murder, Psycho, The Birds, and North by Northwest. 

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1. There are several examples of the "Hitchcock touch" in the opening scene of "The Pleasure Garden". The unexpected camera shots such as the view of the stage from off stage instead of the expected view from the audience. In fact there is never really a typical shot of the stage from the audience point of view. The focus on the audience and then on the one "cool blonde", another "Hitchcock touch" are unexpected. Another "Hitchcock touch" was the use of subtle humor, like the shot of the man smoking the cigar in front of the Smoking Prohibited sign.
2. Absolutely this sequence contains approaches seen in films throughout Hitchcock's career. Several were mentioned in the response to #1 above. The use of atypical camera shots and angles, the inclusion of a cool blonde and subtle humor. Another was the inclusion of the leg shots and the focus on leering men and sexy women on stage.
3. I do feel there are limitations for Hitchcock in this opening scene resulting from it being a silent film. One of the elements of Hitchcock films I enjoy is the dialog. The dialog in Hitchcock's "talkies" is usually smart, snappy and contains subtle humor that greatly adds to my enjoyment of the films. That element is missing from a silent film.

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Two Cents on The 1st Daily Dose (Pleasure Garden)

1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? 2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career? 

If the "Hitchcock Touch" is his creative and unique visual rhetoric, then - yes! Hitchcock uses the camera like a tool or weapon in many more recent films I've seen - but there are good examples in this short clip:

  • The tight, focused shots of legs, faces, purse (illustrate how Hitch uses the camera as a spotlight, highlighter, directional sign to move the viewer into and around the story.)
  • The shift from blurred vision to the sharp focus of the binoculars on the legs - and up the body.
  • The humorous juxtaposition of Mr. Hamilton smoking in front of the "No Smoking" sign.

 

3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue?

Actually, the silent film may actually be useful in showing what Hitchcock can do WITHOUT dialogue through strictly visual means - but, to be clear, I'm all for talkies.

 

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. 

 

I have never watched a ton of Hitchcock before so I'm not sure. 

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career? 

 

One thing I think it did lack which few ever talk about is the lighting Hitchcock used later in his career.  I took the quiz and based off lighting in the black and whites, got 7/10.  Does anyone who is more familiar with his work, agree or disagree that he used lighting like in Psycho with a contrast look to them?

 

3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue?

 

Yes. Without the spoken word when two characters look like each other until you go back to the first one, you're not sure if they moved or something happened. You also can't use the dialogue to push the story forward or explain the visual effects. Lots of movies use sound to transition a scene like if someone is in a living room and hears a car, they might cut to the driver pulling up to the house outside. Without sound it creates lots of limitations but the real question might be 'did they realize their limitations without sound since they had never shot a film with sound?' 

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see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence.  

 

His voyeuristic tendencies show in the shots from the wings of the stage versus more straightforward shots from the audience.  Felt to me like we were "spying" on the performance.  Also, the man who "peeps" at the dancers' legs with his opera glasses.

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1. Yes, the beginnings of Hitchthemes are front and center, beauty and humor.

2. Yes, the start of a genius is born

3. No, love silent films and old time radio, silent films in reverse, just a different way to use your imagination.

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1)​From the very beginning of the movie we can see Hitchcock touch, there so much little detail from the chorus girls coming down the spiral staircase, to the men's expressions on their faces from seeing all that eye candy in front of them. Hitchcock also went ahead to show us the darker side of how at the very end  of the clip those two robber steal that young lady letter thinking it might be money. But also those two gentlemen if that's what we can call them want to take advantage of her. 

 

​2) I totally agree with them.

 

​3) No there was no limitation for being a silent film at all.

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1. There are absolute evident beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence. The frames of the chorus girls and the camera blur as we see a man beguiled by a specific blonde chorus girl. The invitation to be a bystander looking through the wings brings the viewer closer to the sequence and the story being told.


2. I do agree with the assessments of Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto. The drama and camera observance of an observer (classic technique). The expressions given, so words aren't necessarily needed in order to follow the scene. Also, the drama of the naive woman and the loss of her important documents.


3. No, not really because for that time the sequences are juxtaposed in such a way that engage the viewer and tells by showing rather than by speaking.


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One Hitchcock touch I noticed was the point of view of the woman's hand and her handbag. We see her as another character sees her, focusing solely on what she is carrying, and not on her. He used this POV in "Notorious" and "Rear Window" when the camera (the audience) is focused on their hands and what they possess.

 

Humor is also present with the no smoking sign and the hair extension, and with the leering of the gentlemen in the front row.

 

Silent movies have their own approach to storytelling and can tell a story using emotions more than dialogue to engage an audience.

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Re:  #1 - "Hitchcock touch" - visual techniques of the binocular being brought toward the camera and the lighting of the purse.

and plot contrivance with a character being thrust into unexpected circumstances.

 

Re: #2 - Elements throughout career - Many.  Character in distress, Nefarious characters lurking, Sardonic and comedic displays of social customs and character foibles.

 

Re: #3 - Silent film limitations - No.  Emotions and plotting artfully conveyed through images, "visual" acting and editing.

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If there was one thing that I saw as the "Hitchcock touch" in this scene, it would be humor when the young lady takes off her hair piece. In the middle of a serious scene, this bit of lightness breaks the drama. I have only seen his American work but this is something that I have come to distinguish about Hitchcock's work, whether in his earlier work like Saboteur or more commonly known pieces like Rear Window. He works to insert bits of humor that are never forced but always fit into the scene. Because I have not seen all of Hitchcock's films, I cannot say whether Strauss, Yacowar and Spoto are correct in their conclusions, but I do recognize that in the movies I've seen there is a certain "feel" about the work that is consistent. I do think that there is a limitation to the "Hitchcock touch" because "The Pleasure Garden" is a silent film; one of the things that I look to is the dialogue between characters. Look to works like"Northwest by Northwest" and "To Catch A Thief"; there is a banter that fits into the larger process of cinematography, lighting and storytelling. I can't believe this is only because Cary Grant is in both. 

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Thank you for this— I've never seen any of Hitchcock's first films, and thought The Pleasure Garden would have been omitted as "The Lodger" is the film Hitchcock considered his first genre film. Nonetheless, you can see he has a knack for directing and scene composition out of the gate.

 

I think the silent film era showcased some great, artistic storytelling that we would not have seen had movies started with synchronous sound. For example, the tempo of the music was conveyed by the dancing and bobbing heads of the row of gentlemen. When a modern film attempts to mimic the silent film genre, there is an over-reliance on insertional title cards— and those are largely absent from this 4:20 clip as Hitchcock knew such breaks from the visuals were distracting at best.

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The opening scene uses "The Hitchcock Touch" of dramatic lightening quite well. The use of dark vertical eyes boarders on the staircase scene is very dramatic. The use of heavy vignetting to focus on the woman's face in the outdoor scenes and on the purse are very effective ways to make the viewer look where you want them to look.

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