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Flicker Alley presents
The Garden of Eden (1928)

"I furnished my own underwear."
- Toni Lebrun (Corinne Griffith)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 22, 2002

Stars: Corinne Griffith, Lowell Sherman, Louise Dresser, Charles Ray
Other Stars: Maude George, Edward Martindel
Director: Lewis Milestone

Manufacturer: Digital Image
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (slightly off-color humor)
Run Time: 01h:18m:52s
Release Date: December 24, 2002
UPC: 803120002226
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B+A- C+

DVD Review

The Garden of Eden began life as a German stage play. A long-running success, it was selected as the vehicle by which Corinne Griffith would begin her relationship with United Artists. Although highly popular in silent films, and an early nominee for the Best Actress Oscar® (for The Divine Lady), she was one of many who did not survive the transition to sound. Griffith made a handful of pictures after this one, then retired, unable to sing or adjust her acting style to talking pictures.

Griffith stars as Toni Lebrun, a young girl in Vienna wanting to become an opera star. She leaves her family and heads to Budapest, where she has an interview for the Palais de Paris. Unfortunately for Toni, this is not exactly an opera house, but a nightclub. When she is mortified by a see-through costume, Toni leaves along with Rosa, the costumer (Louise Dresser). Rosa is in fact the Baroness de Gercer, but she only has enough money to live it up as nobility for two weeks of the year. So they head to spend two weeks at Monte Carlo and the Hotel Eden, where they pretend Toni is Rosa's daughter. Both Richard Dupont (Charles Ray) and his uncle, Col. Dupont (Edward Martindel) fall in love with Toni and want to propose to her. Complications ensue, culminating in a notorious sequence featuring Toni in her underwear on her wedding day, something not permissible after the Production Code was adopted a few years later.

Although it has some screwball aspects, the film plays more as gentle comedy, with an occasional dash of slapstick. Director Lewis Milestone is content to let the situations create the humor without being overbroad. The production design by William Cameron Menzies is appropriately opulent and entirely convincing. On occasion, there are some visually dazzling shots, such as Toni and Richard seated at a grand piano, perfectly reflected in the raised lid, while the room slowly rotates around them.

Griffith is appealing and charming as the lead, although it doesn't make any great demands upon her. Dresser provides a quiet nobility joined with an increasing exasperation at the antics of her young ward. The male cast is fairly one-dimensional, interested in a single thing, generally in the person of Miss Lebrun. Maude George, as the androgynous keeper of the Palais de Paris, gives her small part an intriguing little flair that makes her memorable despite getting only a couple minute of screen time.

There are some big plot holes in the story, such as how exactly Toni suddenly has been legally adopted by Rosa, and unlikely coincidences, such as another of Philip's uncles (Lowell Sherman) having been in the audience of the Palais de Paris on the one abortive evening of Toni's career there. But overall the picture is fun and moves briskly enough. The pacing is aided by a slight undercranking that provides a slightly sped-up feeling that boosts the comic effect. However, it's not overdone to the point of ridiculousness. A Technicolor dream sequence of Toni as a great opera star, prefiguring her later assumed wealth, remains unfortunately lost.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame picture generally looks quite lovely. The source print is in fabulous condition, with a couple of slightly rough spots; for the most part there's only the occasional nick here and there. The picture is a little soft, but that appears to be the photography, not a problem of the transfer. The soft focus appears to be used to hide the heroine's age, since Griffith was playing a young ingenue at the age of 34. Scenes not featuring her are crisp and detailed. Blacks are rich and deep, with an excellent greyscale. The bit rate hovers around 5 Mbps, giving plenty of room to avoid serious compression artifacts here.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only)no

Audio Transfer Review: The accompaniment by noted silent film artist Robert Israel sounds terrific. His organ playing is rich and full, with sound going down into the nether regions of your subwoofer. A few piano sequences have good presence and clarity, though at one point it becomes slightly out of register with the action on the screen. Really nothing to complain about here.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Production Notes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Excerpts from the pressbook and lobby cards
  2. Promotional stills
  3. Two short subjects
Extras Review: A goodly selection of extra materials, most of them derived from the original pressbook, are provided here, as are a few lobby cards and a number of promotional stills. The pressbook shows that even in 1928 studios were not afraid of ballyhoo and bizarre promotions to drum up interest in their pictures. Happily, much of this material is produced in large enough size to be more or less legible on the screen. Biographies of the principals from the pressbook are included; it would have been nice to have additional material to indicate what happened to them after 1928. A filmography for Maude George is provided instead of a bio. Notes on the missing color sequence, as well as a few stills, help fill in the blanks for this lost portion of the film.

In addition, two one-reel shorts from the period are included. The Toy Shop (1928, 9m) is a sentimental little Christmas piece about a poor girl taken in by a kindly toy shop proprietor and her dreams of the toys coming to life. Shot in two-strip Technicolor, it still looks quite good and it includes a period musical score that is crackly but sounds decent enough. Hollywood the Unusual (1927, 10m) is a travelogue of the often bizarre architecture of Hollywood, with its Egyptian themes, Chinese, Turkish and other oddities. In addition to many landmarks no longer extant, the film includes the then-new Grauman's Chinese Theatre, with the first footprints in the cement outside it (Fairbanks and Pickford are shown). Alan Boyd contributes the piano score for this fascinating little document of lost Hollywood.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

A quiet and charming little comedy, with some highly interesting visuals, in a lovely print and accompanied by some very good extras makes for an auspicious debut disc from new DVD company Flicker Alley.


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