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Monday, June 22, 2015

Lush Garden Of A Late Silent


The Garden Of Eden (1928) Is Visual Paradise

This ultra-polished vehicle for silent star Corinne Griffith came out during last roar of voiceless film that was 1928, pics from there losing some of sheen for limitations sound imposed upon visuals. The Garden Of Eden was no trend-setter in itself, but nicely cribbed from naughty fun Ernst Lubitsch and imitators had since the German director's takeover of ribaldry done stateside. Critics were generous and United Artists took $583K in domestic rentals, a little below average for that year, but OK overall. The Garden Of Eden is notable for being the very first DVD from stalwart distrib Flicker Alley back in 2002, and out-of-print for most of years since. It's a collector item now and deservedly so, being a top-notch transfer with generous extras. Flicker Alley has The Garden Of Eden on streaming basis, so opportunity is there to see it.


Corinne Griffith was lauded as a greatest of screen beauties, her look surviving unto a 21st Century to whom she still appeals (my take, anyway, while admitting these things are subjective). A 20's public preferred Corinne out of clothes where possible, she being bared in set-pieces which were/are Garden highlights. Was retirement with coming of sound partly her admission that the career was fueled by sex? She did but a handful of talkies. William K. Everson wrote of her voice not clicking, but I've not watched to confirm. Corinne kept her cash, notwithstanding husbands who got portions of it, and wrote books, from which Papa's Delicate Condition stood out. There was a court incident where Griffith got on the witness stand to deny that she was Corinne Griffith. Silent era colleagues were called to impeach her testimony, while observers came away thinking she was just another nut job of a faded movie queen.


The Garden Of Eden was product of happier times, being of a brief period when CG could call her shots. UA's deal was with the actress as producer, her current husband, Walter Morosco, along for the ride but taking orders from better half. Cheesecake poses would herald Eden's coming, discard of Doug Fairbanks, Jr. as leading man resulting in offbeat Charles Ray as substitute, him of "hick" leads in earlier silents. Ray by '28 was just this side of vaude touring for sustenance, H'wood having had surfeit of his act. Publicity yelled, It's A Pippin,' that being popular slang of the time, and laid upon apple art, plus snakes, fig leaves, whatever else might evoke Eden. Ad messages then as now came direct to point. Happy coincidence in Philadelphia saw a gopher snake escape from a pet shop, then gathered off the street by showman George Sobel of the Stanley Theatre, who carried the six-footer into his lobby for display. Cops didn't bother asking if the incident was framed, such gags a known quantity on busy thoroughfare where merchants stroked each other for mutual benefit. If film promotion was so much snake oil, why not use snakes?


The Garden Of Eden had a color sequence, once upon a first-run. It may turn up again when dinosaurs come back. What a shame so much Technicolor is gone, a loss more keenly felt with peruse of lately published The Dawn Of Technicolor 1915-1936, by James Layton and David Pierce, a massive and marvelous history of the process in early flowering. If you want demonstration of a talk-less era on lushest setting, go by all means with The Garden Of Eden. It's got all of what would become "precode." In fact, I'm wondering when someone might do a book on the roots of precode, cause this Garden is rich with them. Thing is, The Garden Of Eden floated around decades among collectors (long ago Griggs Moviedrome offered it), and was celebrated for what a silent movie could look like where you had a really fine print. It's also Exhibit A for William Cameron Menzies as all-time champ of production designers, plus early evidence of director Lewis Milestone headed for the top (All Quiet but two seasons off).

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_7?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=showmen+sell+it+hot&sprefix=showmen%2Cstripbooks%2C154

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