Monday, July 25, 2011
“The Garden of Eden” (1928)
“The Garden of Eden” (1928) is a silent romantic comedy starring Corinne Griffith, Louise Dresser and Charles Ray. Directed by Lewis Milestone, this film is nicely balanced between romance and comedy.
The story begins with a naïve young woman, Toni LeBrun, played by Corinne Griffith, who decides to pursue a career as an opera singer. One night, Toni sneaks out of her aunt and uncle’s house to catch a train for Budapest. She arrives alone in the big city and goes to the cabaret, Palais de Paris, to audition for a role. It is at the cabaret that Toni meets the wicked owner Madame Bauer, played by Maude George. She is a businesswoman who wants to pimp her out to Henry D’Avril, one of Bauer’s wealthy customers, played by Lowell Sherman. When Madame Bauer provides a private room for Toni and D’Avril, Toni refuses his advances, and Rosa, the wardrobe mistress, played by Louise Dresser, helps her escape and they are both fired. What Toni doesn’t know is that Rosa is a baroness whose husband was killed in the Great War. She works all year and when she gets her late husband’s pension, she lives in Monte Carlo until her money runs out and then returns to Budapest. When Rosa’s pension arrives, she legally adopts Toni and takes her on a Cinderella-like adventure where she is pursued by two men, Richard Dupont, played by Charles Ray, and Colonel Dupont, his uncle, played by Edward Martindel.
“The Garden of Eden” (1928) is a delightful romantic comedy. I was really impressed with the photography and Corinne Griffith’s graceful performance. Charles Ray, who had been a popular actor in the 1910’s under the direction of Thomas H. Ince, delivers a solid performance. What I liked most about the film were the scenes with Corinne Griffith and Louise Dresser. They were perfect foils for each other, and their faces were so expressive.
Corinne Griffith was born Corinne Mae Griffin in Texarkana, Texas on November 21, 1894. She was a leading lady with Vitagraph from 1916 to 1922, appearing in more than forty films. From Vitagraph, Corinne moved on to First National where she headed her own production unit and where she would remain until 1930, except for one film, “The Garden of Eden” (1928), released by United Artists. Of the more than twenty-five First National films, three stand out: “Black Oxen” (1924), “Lilies of the Field” (1924) and “The Divine Lady” (1929). Corinne did appear in a couple of 1929 features with sound sequences, followed by two complete talkies, “Lilies of the Field” and “Back Pay” in 1930. With those films, her First National contract ended and her film career was over. Corinne was married four times, first to her Vitagraph director Webster Campbell then to producer Walter Morosco. In 1936, she married George Marshall, owner of the Boston Braves, and became a baseball fan. Corinne wrote her experiences in a 1946 “Saturday Evening Post” article, “My Life with the Redskins.” It was the first of six books that Corinne was to author, including “Papa’s Delicate Condition (1952), which was filmed in 1963 as a vehicle for Jackie Gleason. Corinne divorced George Marshall in 1958, and in 1965, she married realtor and singer, Dan Scholl. He was 44 and she was 71. The couple separated after six weeks and the divorce proceedings were extraordinarily messy. At the time of her death, Corinne’s estate was valued at $150 million dollars. She was one of the wealthiest women in the world.