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Garden of Allah, good or not?


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I have mixed feelings about this, just saw it for the first time last night. On the one hand, it's got a genuinely mystical feel to it and that glorious color and closeups of a young handsome Charles Boyer; on the other hand, the script seemed like it was dusted off from some silent movie treatment that never got made; a little of Joseph Schildkraut goes a long, long way, and Marlene doesn't have much to do except gaze, and in one scene is doing an awful lot of gazing at Tilly Losch as much as she's staring at Boyer. Not that there's anything wrong that that...This indeed could have been done as a silent with no appreciable difference except the color. I'd like to hear other opinions.

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I would agree that it's a mixed bag and it's too bad that it isn't more dramatically dynamic. On the other hand, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, and a wonderful example of 3-strip Technicolor when it had just began to be used in full-length features. (I believe the first one had been Becky Sharp just one year earlier).

 

On a side note, I was totally blown away by the high quality of the video transfer. The image always looked pristine, I couldn't really detect any tears or scratches in the source material used. It's rare to see a film from the 30's preserved in such good condition.

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Even though the color and cinematography are breathtaking, I do think that the script and dialogue left a little bit to be desired. I think you hit the nail on the head-- this would have been marvelous as a silent. It's kind of disappointing that the silents didn't continue every once and a while. We didn't give up black and white film completely when color came along, so why did we give up silents?

 

The only thing, though, is that if this had been a silent we wouldn't have had that marvelous scenery!

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> We didn't give up black and white film completely when color

> came along, so why did we give up silents?

 

I think this was more of a case of producers, studios and exhibitors trying to satisfy public demand. Studios felt they literally had to rush to provide the public with talking movies. Even if it meant some stars' careers would be destroyed due to their voices not matching the image the public had of them.

 

On the other hand, I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with a movie that is mostly enjoyable as eye-candy, without much else going for it, so long as you watch it in the right mood. Some people would feel the exact same way about, say, Blade Runner -- breathtaking visually, but disappointing from a conventional narrative viewpoint.

 

I'll be honest and confess that every once in a while I feel like watching a movie that's just gorgeous eye candy and nothing more.

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> On the other hand, I don't think there's anything

> particularly wrong with a movie that is mostly

> enjoyable as eye-candy, without much else going for

> it, so long as you watch it in the right mood. Some

> people would feel the exact same way about, say,

> Blade Runner -- breathtaking visually, but

> disappointing from a conventional narrative

> viewpoint.

>

> I'll be honest and confess that every once in a while

> I feel like watching a movie that's just gorgeous eye

> candy and nothing more.

 

I agree, I enjoyed this film too, just on that basis. I loved the exotic desert scenes, I'm a sucker for desert scenes. I think that's the mindset you have to watch this movie with, not expecting any great acting or dialogue.

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I would third that statement. There are some films that are just not balanced and heavy in one area while light in another. If you can accept the limitations--great.

 

I don't know that BR is quite a fair comparision though as there were numerous problems during the filming of that movie and at least 3 different cuts floating around (not to mention the original feel good ending forced by the studio).

 

Incidentally, there is supposed to be a BR box set coming out sometime soon with Scott's ultimate cut (nothing like that crummy directors cut) as well as at least 2 other versions. I would like to see Harrison Ford do a commentary track, but that's pretty doubtful as he hates this film.

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I found a new appreciation for The Garden of Allah last night. During the first portion of the film, I was struck by how little dialogue there was and how the faces of Dietrich and Boyer were enough to convey the story. That close-up of Boyer as a tear wells in his eye and spills down his cheek was stunning. I believe Josh Logan wrote about being a lowly assistant writer on this movie during his first trip to Hollywood. He wrote of the difficulty of writing lines for Dietrich who couldn't pronounce her "r"'s and Boyer who could barely pronounce any English at all. He also wrote of the absurdity of filming Dietrich strolling the desert sands in high heels.

 

It was great to see the legendary ballerina Tilly Losch at work. This is one of the [many] reasons that I love old movies: they are a capsule of history allowing us to actually see the legends of a previous time.

 

What an astounding supporting cast: Dietrich's own daughter Maria Riva, Bonita Granville, Lucille Watson, C. Aubrey Smith, Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Joseph Schildkraut, That's rich!

 

But best of all was the scrumptious cinematography. I decided I would buy the DVD of this movie; turn off the sound and just let those gorgeous images tickle my television screen.

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yes, the main reason for this film's popularity is seeing a 1930's dietrich in three strip technicolor. marlene dietrich has to be the ultimate eye-candy. no one can touch her high glamour, she's so unreal. dietrich worked hard at presenting herself in this way througout her career, and she never failed to deliver. yet she is a good enough actress (when need be) to convince us she she has some depth to her.

 

i noticed on this viewing dietrich had some kind of white eyeliner on her lower eyelids to highlight her eyes, how exotic.... and if you look quick you can see "the sand man' john carradine wears a similar makeup!

 

but the most memorable eyes in the film are those soulful eyes of charles boyer, such an incredible, one-of-a-kind actor.

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She was a very versatile actress. Robert Osborne said that one time someone asked her early director, Joseph Von Sternberg, about the real Marlene, and he said, ?I am Marlene Dietrich?. Meaning, he made her famous character for her and he taught her how to act as only that character.

 

She played a different character briefly in ?Dishonored? and I didn?t recognize her. She played a little German maid. She was so different I just didn?t recognize her. The Dietrich we all know is a characterization created by Joseph Von Sternberg specifically for ?The Blue Angel,? and he decided to stay with that characterization for the rest of the films he made with her, then she stayed with it thereafter.

 

It?s like the way Cliff Arquette played the Charlie Weaver character in TV shows and films in the early 1950s. It?s like the way Louis Jones played the Grandpa Jones character in the country music world. He started playing the Grandpa Jones character when he was about 22 years old.

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"I believe Garson Kanin wrote about being a lowly assistant writer on this movie during his first trip to Hollywood. He wrote of the difficulty of writing lines for Dietrich who couldn't pronounce her "r"'s..."

 

Gee, Jack, then I guess Kanin and the other scriptwriters overlooked Marlene's line, "How howwible!" in the script?*Lol*

 

I loved the cinematography by Virgil Miller and Clarence Slifer--especially the starry night skies. I thought that Max Steiner went whole hog trying to make up for the script's inadequacies through his over the top score, and wondered where Marlene's eyebrows were throughout the movie, even though she looked dreamy, especially in those Ernest Dryden duds. I guess that Selznick and company thought that they could make lightning strike twice in the same sandy spot, trying to translate Dietrich's fascinatin' talents to another desert setting, ? la Morocco with Gary Cooper. I'm so glad that you mentioned that beautifully photographed teardrop that fell from Charles Boyer's eye, whose acting was quite moving, despite everything. The only thespian who got away entirely unscathed by the script seems to be Bous-Bous, the Dog, as C. Aubrey Smith's lookalike doggie, who stole every scene he was in.

 

Btw, someone mentioned that this seemed like a silent movie in some ways, and in fact, the Robert Hichens' novel was adapted to the screen as a silent in 1916 and 1927. The latter version starred Alice Terry under the direction of her husband, noted director, Rex Ingram.

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Joshua Logan was Dialogue Director for " The Garden of Allah ",many years ago he was a guest on " Kup's Show ", a local talk program. Mr Logan did a great Dietrich impression, I laughed and laughed. He did mention the ' r ' problem

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The film's a turgid potboiler, all right, but that cinematography does take one's breath away, especially when one considers that it was one of the first feature-length films made in three-strip Technicolor. The amount of thought that went into the film's color scheme, in costumes, make-up, sets and lighting was extraordinary, and puts today's films to shame.

 

And Boyer was, indeed, quite moving (and, in his way more feminine -- not effeminate, mind you -- than Dietrich, something probably a lot closer to the truth than most moviegoers back then suspected).

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"Joshua Logan was Dialogue Director for " The Garden of Allah ",many years ago he was a guest on " Kup's Show ", a local talk program. Mr Logan did a great Dietrich impression, I laughed and laughed. He did mention the ' r ' problem"

 

Yes, thank you Mr. 123! 'Twas Josh Logan -- not Garson Kanin -- who wrote of the dialogue challenges of this movie. I've corrected my post. Thanks again.

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I love THE GARDEN OF ALLAH - mainly for the music, the photography and Charles Boyer's truly outstanding performance. Dietrich is a pain and comes off very much a poseur, mainly due to bad dialogue. Shildkraut and Brandon are a funny pair and Rasil Bathbone is, as always, a commanding presence. C. Aubrey Smith can do no wrong in my book and its nice to see Lucile Watson not munching on chocolates! Great cameo by John Carradine as the sandreader.

 

I saw an interview, I think on the MERV GRIFFIN SHOW, where Josh Logan complained that Richard Boleslawski was too busy with "these damn camels" to settle a dispute over how a line should be read.

 

There was heavy cutting of this picture prior to its release. In the hotel scene near the end when Dominee and Boris are waiting for the coach you can catch just a glimpse of Harlan Briggs, who played an American Tourist but whose scene but for this one sighting is cut.

 

The real problem with THE GARDEN OF ALLAH is the direction. Or, more pointedly, the Dialogue Direction. They should have had Stanley Logan instead of Josh Logan as dialogue director (the latter a very talented gent at Warner Bros.).

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Strictly eye candy. Sumptuous production in the David O. Selznick tradition.

 

But although the color was gorgeous, the story was dull...extremely so, even with the presence of Basil Rathbone and Joseph Schildkraut in the cast.

 

Neil

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