The Pleasure Garden, Alfred Hitchcock’s Very First Feature Film (1925)

Last week, we fea­tured Sight & Sound mag­a­zine’s last crit­ics poll, in which Alfred Hitch­cock­’s Ver­ti­go unseat­ed the long­time cham­pi­on, Orson Welles’ Cit­i­zen Kane. The lat­ter famous­ly appeared as Welles’ debut, released in 1941, just days before the direc­tor and star attained the ripe old age of 26. Ver­ti­go, by con­trast, rep­re­sents the work of a mature film­mak­er; when it came out in 1958, its 59-year-old direc­tor had 46 pre­vi­ous pic­tures under his belt. Today, let’s go back to the first of those, to a Hitch­cock film far less wide­ly seen — though of no less inter­est to Hitch­cock enthu­si­asts — than the San Fran­cis­co tale of the trou­bled Scot­tie Fer­gu­son and elu­sive Madeleine Elster: 1925’s The Plea­sure Gar­den, view­able free in full at the top of this post. This silent adap­ta­tion of an Oliv­er Sandys nov­el, a British pro­duc­tion meant to show­case Amer­i­can star Vir­ginia Val­li, plunges into the roman­ti­cal­ly tur­bu­lent milieu of Lon­don cho­rus girls.

It takes that plunge by open­ing with a sequence crit­ic Dave Kehr calls “a clip reel of Hitch­cock motifs to come.” Clear­ly the 26-year-old Hitch­cock arrived with his skills and sen­si­bil­i­ties in place, but when he took on this project in 1925, he’d already had a bad expe­ri­ence in the film indus­try: 1922’s abort­ed Num­ber 13 would have giv­en him his first direc­to­r­i­al cred­it, but that pro­duc­tion ran out of mon­ey when pho­tog­ra­phy had only just begun.

The Plea­sure Gar­den itself would­n’t get pub­licly screened until 1927, after Hitch­cock had already had some suc­cess with his third fea­ture The Lodger. But the pic­ture that will always remain his first has accrued a good deal of respect over the past 86 years, and it received a BFI restora­tion this year. If you can’t find a show­ing of the restora­tion yet, watch the ear­li­er ver­sion right here. You can also watch the trail­er for the restora­tion here.

You will find oth­er great films in our col­lec­tion of Free Hitch­cock Movies Online, as well as in our larg­er col­lec­tion 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch The White Shad­ow, the Recent­ly-Dis­cov­ered and Ear­li­est-Sur­viv­ing Hitch­cock Film

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Doc­u­men­taries

The 10 Great­est Films of All Time Accord­ing to 846 Film Crit­ics

Watch 25 Alfred Hitch­cock Trail­ers, Excit­ing Films in Their Own Right

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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