Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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Daily Dose #1

 

1.     I believe we can see Hitchcock’s “touch” from the first frame as it was suggested. Hitchcock doesn’t waste any time in getting right to the conflict of his films while simultaneously introducing key players and their situation. First is the entrance of the chorus line women who come cascading down a staircase like a drink being poured into a tumbler. In a circus like manner, Hitchcock sets up this predator vs. prey atmosphere. We quickly take on a voyeuristic role as well as the camera cuts to a high angle downward shot from off stage which creates a cage-like quality. This is the transition to allow us to go between observer and observed. Next, to amplify the predator, Hitchcock pans across the front row of mostly elderly men, doggishly leering at the women on stage. Their elderly ages further marked by the foggy vision and the need for spectacles and binoculars to better see them. Humorously and rather pointedly, at the end of this pan is a quick shot of one of the wives sleeping as if to point out that in a way even the wives are victims of this male domination. This then continues with the dialogue between the star chorus girl Patsy Brand, and the embarrassed elderly man who is very ashamed to be trying to flirt with her, and she mocks him, laughs at him and walks away asserting herself against him. But it’s not over, there more prey out there as the new potential chorus girl has her letter stolen by the two stalking wolves outside the Pleasure Garden. The receptionist won’t let her in, but we see two more wolves leering at her waiting to take advantage. This part of the scene is another example of how Hitchcock complicates the plot. The scene closes with Patsy Brand exiting the theater. There is cut from a wide shot of the two men approaching the new girl to a close up of Patsy Brand seeing this; her facial expression changing to dismay.

2.     I think it is clear from the components of the first question that I agree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto. In the video interview, it is clear that Hitchcock had ideas on how to set up shot sequence and build in the proper psychology. Even though he won’t admit that he was aware of his directorial ambitions, it is clear from Pleasure Garden that he had already developed them quite well.

3.     The only limitations that a silent film might have is in the introduction of the characters. More of a cultural or generation obstacle to overcome and become used to. For example, Patsy is introduced, but I believe it was the actresses name at the end of the caption-hard to follow. 

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Our attention was directed to the dancer Patsy Brand by sharing her admirer's effort to focus on her. In reaction to his attentive stare, she is discouraging and dimissive - she even 'makes a face'. Even before they meet, we sense she knows how to handle stage door Johnnies. Before she knows why Mr. Hamilton calls her over, she is cooperative, a common response to your employer. We've met Patsy and have seen two sides to her job.

Outside the theatre Hitchcock shows us what draws the attention of the two men by the door. They see a purse rather than the woman holding it.

 

What I find common to both scenes is the director's careful direction of our attention with camera techniques. In the first scene, this is done by focusing the image. Literally highlighting the purse in the next scene tells us to keep our eyes on it.

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Hello all! Nice to be here with other people that have a passion for (or interest in) Hitchcock.

So my thoughts:

1. It's kind of amazing that the "Hitchcock touch" is visible in his very first scene, but there are certainly recognizable elements in place. A staircase for starters, something that appears in a majority of Hitchcock movies. Also the POV camera shots. So sure handed. We always know who is seeing what. And the man who is using the opera glasses to study the dancer's legs introduces the theme of audience as voyeur, an idea of Hitchcocks which would come to its fruition in Rear Window.

2. I do agree with the authors mentioned that there are approaches we will see later on his career. However, It is easy with hindsight to look back on all of his films and "see" themes and motifs. At this stage Hitchcock certainly did not have a master plan, he was just finding his footing, but he was a natural visual stylist who would only get better.

3. I did not feel that the lack of synchronous sound was a deficiency. Hitchcock would open many of his later films with small, dialogue-free vignettes that set the scene for the viewer with no words spoken. The opening of Rear Window is my favorite example. But Hitchcock uses this same technique in the opening of Dial M for Murder and a few other films. I think he was first, last and always a visual storyteller.

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That was a great observation on The Man Who Knew Too Much scene. I had forgotten about that. 

1. I do see several instances of moments in "The Pleasure Garden" (1925) that Hitchcock would also use in his later features with the "Hitchcock Touch." The music hall "audience" portion might have served as an inspiration for the audience portion in the "Albert Hall" scene in Hitchcock's 1956 remake of "The Man Who Knew Too Much."  Another instance would be in the scene where the villainous henchmen secretly steal Jill's letter of introduction to Mr. Hamilton, trying to gaslight her when she tries to present the letter to the clerk inside the Pleasure Garden Theatre.  This might have served as an inspiration for the sequence in "North by Northwest" (1959) where Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) and his henchmen (Martin Landau, Adam Williams and Robert Ellenstein) are gas-lighting Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant).  

 

2. I highly agree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto's connection of the sequence and the "Hitchcock Touch."  Everything from the pacing of the film, to the expressions of the actors and the cinematography are Hitchcock's own style (that he would employ in his later features).  

 

3. I don't think there were any limitations (in "The Pleasure Garden") to Hitchcock's cinematic craft and style in his British silents.  With the advancement of motion picture sound technology (sound-on-disc and sound-on-film) at the end of the 1920's, sound would serve as a greater enhancement to the work of the "master of suspense."

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1. I do see "Baby Hitchcock" in this scene. The rapid pan of the audience (where in later movies Hitch would probably do a cameo), the closeups of the women's legs, something bad happening to an ordinary person where the brunette loses her papers and those two wise guy-looking guys come to talk to her.

2. There's something to each point but I think that Spoto's observation was closest to the truth.

3. With no sound, the actors had to speak with their expressions and movements. You could see the characters of the old lecher, the blond dancer and the brunette were portrayed. Hitch used the limitations of the silent film to great effect.

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On first look, I did recognize some Hitchcock touches...all have already been mentioned.  Specifically, the blurry out of focus vision, when the monocle was being removed, and the binoculars bringing the dancers legs into focus.  I had to laugh at the man's attempt at charming the blonde by commenting on her curl and then she handed it to him.  Also Hamilton's smoking in front of the No Smoking sign, while fingering his moustache...a classic villain I'm suspecting!  It's the suttle humour that I've always enjoyed in a Hitchcock film.

 

Strauss, Yacowar and Spoto to me were correct in their assessments.  Hitchcock had a unique eye, a unique approach.  

 

I think that everything was conveyed quite well, considering it is a silent film.  I was getting interested in the story, even without much expostion of dialogue.  Expressions and actions, while clearly exaggerated, were very effective in carrying on the storyline to the extent that I'm interested in watching the entire film, to see how the story continues and to see more of the Hitchcock touch.

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

 

Knowing what I know about Hitchcock films if I did not know this was done by him I would thought it was just another silent film. But according to Strauss he does frame the shot so that the world is that staircase of what seems a never ending chorus of girls.

 

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 can see his use of sexy blondes and men taken with them. He adds a bit of comedy by giving the lovesick man her curl.

 

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 because at some point he will run out of girls and the audience gets dizzy watching it. It is a setup for a dance number that I suppose was common during early films.

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I see early touches of vouyerism and his affinity for blondes. These would be recurring themes throughout his career. I don't think being a silent film hurt this at all. 

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples.
Yes - several things - For one: The sharp visual focus on certain things - The leering rich men focusing on the women's legs -(and the monocle that brings them into sharper focus) the highlighting of the woman's handbag, and the 2 thieves we know are going to rip her off - Think of the scene in Notorious when Ingrid Bergman hides the wine cellar key in her hand and kicks it under the bureau, or when Grace Kelly shows James Stewart that she's wearing Mrs. Thorwalds wedding ring.

Another Hitchcock touch is humor in the midst of something sinister. The rich geezer gets up and steps on another geezer's foot - the dancer hands him the lock of hair/curl that he's admired.

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?
As mentioned above. He is, in a way "telegraphing" that something bad is going to happen.

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 find any limitations. In some instances, the words were superfluous

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1. Yes, his touch was here. Reminded me of interview about montage and H mentioned "a dirty old man." I also saw the contrast in black and white like Rebecca. The opera glasses reminded of LB Jefferies spying. The girl with the curl rebuffing the gentleman reminded me of Max de Winter's attitude to Mrs. Van Hopper's question of his having unpacked yet. We also saw the zoom on the pickpocket.

 

2. Absolutely I see elements that will continue to appear throughout H's art.

 

3. The lack of spoken dialogue wasn't consequential. H was aware of what audience needed to comprehend every nuance of the story.

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This Daily Dose has three reflection questions:

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

 

For me the stairs seems a touch, the locker of hair is the unexpected which seemed a touch of Hitch, and the voyeuristic nature of the scene stands out as his touch.

 

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?

Agree. He perfected them and refined his approach over the 50 year career. There's a reason we call him a genius...

 

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?

As I watched I was impressed with the usage of perspective and the lens also the visual storytelling was solid even in his first go... did the lack of sychonois spoken dialogue affect the enjoyment? Not really. The music is dated for certain but I actually had no sounds first watch. I think the pacing felt like it was from the 20's along with the over the top expressions of then performers. It didn't affect my appreciation of his camera usage or ability to compose shots juxtaposing images etc.

 

Thanks for reading me! Nice to be back on the boards! Read you all soon!!! Go Hitch go!

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As I am still fairly new to Hitchcock's approach, I didn't notice quite as much in regards to the "Hitchcock touch". What I did notice was already mentioned, such as the quick cuts from shot to shot and the blurriness of the image being brought into focus. 

 

In saying what I said above, I cannot completely concur with each gentleman's assessment, only the parts that I do know. Though I do trust these gentlemen completely in their craft and believe that what they say is absolutely true.

 

When it comes to the limitations of a silent film, I believe that there can be some in certain situations. However, in this opening scene the main idea came across easily and Hitchcock's direction of it was excellent. 

 

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1.  There is so much Hitchcock here.  The voyeurism of the audience.  The use of lenses to draw the audiences eye.  The first Hitchcock blonde!  And that wickedly dry sense of humor.  It's all there.  I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the film to see what other clues there will be.

 

2.  Absolutely.  As others have noted, and are indicated in the answers to the first question, there are lots of elements that would be characterized as 'so Hitchcock' even before he was Hitchcock.  

 

3.  I don't think the lack of dialogue distracts at all.  The images that Hitch puts together are more than sufficient to tell the story he's trying to get across.  

 

I have to admit that I'm downright giddy about this class. I had the best time taking the Noir class and still have the certificate framed in my TV room.  I have a great appreciation for Hitchcock's style and I'm excited to have the opportunity to see his early films and to explore his evolution in an academic setting.  Because I'm a huge nerd.

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The use of the camera going in and out of focus as well as zooming in on objects are common parts of later H films. Humor was always a part of H films. The young dancer playing a trick on the man  showed the humor that I always look for in H films, even in his serious dramas and horror films. I don't particularly like silent films, however, this clip made me very curious to see what happens. What will happen to the blonde?- Will she be a heroine or a villain? This is definitely an early Kim Novak, Grace Kelly, Janet Leigh look.

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


I absolutely see early precursors to what would later be considered the Hitchcock touch. Most immediately was the indiscriminate observation of the female actors (of course mostly blonde(, allowing the camera to methodically focus on different parts of the female form throughout the sequence. This in turn leads to the focus on the men's enjoyment of what they are seeing--or in some cases, unable to see. A constant exploration what is behind the line, what comes dangerously close to the line, never quite getting to what is over the line. 


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 do agree generally with the assessment--there is witty reparte between genders, a playful exploration of sexual tension, a constant tugging at what is just below the surface that we'll never see. 


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 actually don't see much limitation here. I believe the visual structure Hitchcock creates here, women as objects to desire and explore, is communicating exceedingly well given the camera angles he uses: overt point of view shots and emphasis on the female form, piece by piece, frame by frame.


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1.  I do see the Hitchcock touch in the scene in which we see the different expressions on the men's faces as they watch the dancers.  But what made me laugh was the last person of the sequence was of a woman sleeping.  There are lots of little laughs in this scene. 

 

2.  Agreed.  I would say one theme is the flirty, assured blond.

 

3. There was no limitations without sound.  Hitchcock was learning to tell stories visually.

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1) There are a few things that I've noticed in this clip that will become the beginnings of Hitchcock. These are: blonde women, POV shots, and the close ups of items that will become important to the scene or the overall film. 

 

2) I completely agree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto when they say that this scene contains elements that will become a staple to Htichcock's career. I feel that here is experimenting with ideas and would later perfect them in future films.

 

3) I do not believe there were any limitations at all. Because even as early in his career that this film was made, Hitchcock understood that film is a language. He knew how to convey to the audience what happening in his camera angles and his direction of that actors. Without dialogue we know and can completely understand what is happening in the scene. This is not always an easy feat to accomplish, so silent film directors needed to become experts at this craft.

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

 

Voyeurism and the blonde. Also, something I noticed at 0:25, was the guy in the audience looking uncomfortable, or perhaps disdainful. I can't think of any other movie examples off the top of my head, but it ... feels like Hitchcock ... to have a number of leering men, happy in their debauchery, and then the conflict: one man grumpy about the whole display.  That contrasted morality is, in itself, a bit of a wink. Feels like Hitch.

 

 

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? 

 

Yes indeed, his ... interests ... or shall we just call them obsessions? Nascent but present.

 

 

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? 

 

Interesting question; actually my answer is "Yes, but that was okay." Lack of sound was a limitation that forced all filmmakers to work harder at communicating meaning, intent, and subtext. Doing that work, I would contend, was part of the foundation of the language of cinema. I wonder if sound was available from the beginning of film ... whether that cinematic language would have developed as quickly.  Or would the filmgoing public have been inundated with painful exposition for a few decades? So yes, it was a limitation. But not a fatal one.  :)

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1. I would guess that I could see the beginning of HItchcock's touch here. To be completely honest, I've seen a good amount of Hitchcock's movie's but I guess I never actually really gave my up-most attention what the "Hitchcock Touch" is. Although the scene where the man with the binoculars is so fixated with the chorus girl and his perception is narrowed is very familiar.

 

2. Yes. I do agree that the the themes you can see in this clip are definitely shown throughout his career.

 

 

3. Not at all! I think the choice of music and energy from the actors and actresses gave you enough of an understanding of what's going on. A good movie doesn't have to have any dialogue for it to be understood or move you. At least that's what I feel. 

 

(Thanks for reading! I'm just a person that just only recently decided to study film so I might not know much but Im glad to learn more!)

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The use of  dry humor (the dozing woman sitting next to the leering men, the guy smoking his cigar by the "smoking prohibited" sign,etc. ) and the sense of voyeurism he creates (like that in Rear Window) are Hitchcock touches.  And there's even a blonde! even a blonde actress!

 

 

Hitchcock is able to tell the story despite the lack of dialogue through his use of camera angles, closeups, etc.

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

 

Yes, as the scene opens there are people moving frantically about as seen in many of his openings. The theme of voyeurism is there right away as we peek down on the dancing girls from above and focus on the legs of the "Hitchcock blonde" with binoculars reminiscent of "Rear Window". There is a strong, flirty leading lady that is strong, sensual, yet not completely safe in her surroundings. The theme of crime is there well as her purse is pick-pocketed.   

 

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? 

 

When looking for the "Hitchcock touches" I definitely agree that this sequence lays the foundation for the approach Hitchcock will lay out his films for decades 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? 

 

There are perhaps a few technological elements with camera movement and lenses that limited the scene but not the spoken words. In some ways the physical movements surpass the spoken words. Instead of hearing the sensual delivery from the Hitchcock blonde as she interacts with the male we observe the flirtatious nature of that encounter and don't need spoken words to understand.

 

 

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ELigner- Every participant is helping by sharing ideas and thoughts. We all are learning from each other. Keep at it- you're doing fine. Thank you for participating. It gets easier.

 

I agree.  Sometimes you might get a response and other times you might not.  That isn't to say people didn't read what you wrote or found it interesting in some way.  I find even the answers which are 'parrot' in nature help to confirm my own answers.  :)  

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Yes, yes, yes! I see his signatures...the blondes, the subtle humor, the camera angles. I see the non verbal expressions of the characters, which allow you to connect quickly and deeply without any dialogue. You are able to empathize or develop disdain for the characters. That has always been a mark of a Hitchcock film to me.

I am not a frequent watcher of silent film but I have no problem with the lack of dialogue. I actually don't care for the occasional dialogue pop-up. Would rather construct my own as I watch the interactions. ????

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The main thing that stands out to me is the use of contrast to establish the subject.  I suppose this a product of Hitchcock's beginnings in silent movies, where lack of dialogue prevents exposition, so the composition establishes the story arc as much as anything.  The first shots are maybe tongue in cheek, Hitchcock's dry humor, the leering old men. Remember Hitchcock is only in his 20's here.  He is poking fun of the old folk.  He clearly establishes what the men are looking at by switching to the man's point of view.  He establishes what is on one man's mind through his binoculars and monocle.  He establishes that Hamilton is charge, no one would question his smoking in front of the no smoking sign.  All thoughout this Hitchcock uses contrast to highlight the center of focus.  So yes, Hitchcock would frequently use point of view to establish elements of story arc.

 

I think that his beginnings in silent movies actually defined his "touch" to always use the visual rather than narrative to provide subtext or foreshadowing.

 

One thing I'd like to add was that the interview with Hitchcock was interesting.  He was thinking about blocking before he was really a director.  Another production artist may have given the usual stage.  But was thinking of establishing view points and shifting focus the narrative to the visual by making the greeter the active view rather than the audience as the passive view.  It also tells me about something very pragmatic.  Maybe it was intentional maybe not, but was he think about the resources going into a complete set if it was really necessary?  In other words, was he already thinking about the bottom line.

 

Looking forward to more viewings and lessons.

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

 

Yes, I do. The way that the camera follows the girls down the staircase and the feel of voyeurism with the man with binoculars. There was also the flirty gal, who sometimes seems to end up not being who she seems. 

 

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 do agree. The first film of a director's career will usually set the tone for the rest of their films. When a director does something that is out of the norm for them, people will definitely notice. 

 

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? 

 

With nearly all silent films, there is usually a limitation of scenes due to lack of spoken dialogue. But I think it is up to the writer, producer, and director to come up with something to make up for it. Body language is especially powerful when there is no spoken word to go with it. 

 

I also have to add, the scene when the girl pulled off her curl and handed it to the man, I had a little chuckle. :P 

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