The Garden Of Eden

Movie Information

Genre: Comedy
Director: Lewis Milestone
Starring: Corinne Griffith, Charles Ray, Louise Dresser, Lowell Sherman
Rated: NR

“Under a Vienna Moon — Over a Vienna Bakery.” That’s the title that both starts this undeservedly obscure, sophisticated comedy gem from director Lewis Milestone, and sets its tone. The Garden of Eden, dating to 1928, is what’s known as a sophisticated (back when that meant something) romantic comedy — the kind where the romance is invariably undercut by realistic doses of cynical wit (as in the opening title).

The story line — Toni Le Brun (Corrine Griffith) can’t seem to find happiness in a life of pretzel making; so, armed with a correspondence-school degree in opera, she sets off for Budapest to become a star — is very much in the mould of an Ernst Lubitsch comedy. And that’s not too surprising, since frequent Lubitsch writer Hans Kraly adapted the Avery Hopwood play for the screen. The movie is from Milestone’s most creative period, and while it’s true that the director’s relentless infusions of style occasionally seem more grafted onto his films than a natural outgrowth of the material, that’s rarely the case here — and it doesn’t keep that style from being delightful in its own right.

Milestone does right by the witty sophistication of the material (his style probably more resembles that of Rouben Mamoulian than Lubitsch, though all three share certain traits); he’s aided here in no small part by a terrific cast and some astonishing sets by William Cameron Menzies (among other things, he designed Gone With the Wind). Stars Corinne Griffith and Charles Ray are probably unknown to any but hardcore silent-movie buffs these days, but give them a chance, and you’ll wonder why they aren’t better appreciated (Griffith in particular).

The always reliable Louise Dresser and Lowell Sherman, that patented dapper man about town (and no mean sophisticate as a filmmaker himself) add just the right touch to the proceedings, not to mention Maude George as the outrageously butch proprietor of the seedy nightclub (really a girlie show with extra … trimmings for its wealthier patrons) where Toni gets her supposed break.

The Garden of Eden is a silk hat and a bottle of Mumm’s Cordon Rouge worth of truly classy entertainment.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.