The Pleasure Garden

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BFI paperback
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1953 film on DVD.

James Broughton’s ‘valentine to the land of Edward Lear, Shakespeare and pantomime’ is a thoroughly charming celebration of love and desire that fascinates as much because of its location – the ruins of the Crystal Palace gardens and terraces in 1952 – as its subject.

John le Mesurier plays the frock-coated Minister of Public Behaviour, Col. Pall K. Gargoyle, determined to stamp out the least sign of indecency or lewdness in the place he wants to turn into a cemetery. When not putting ‘Do Not’ signs around the place, he is attaching fig leaves to statuary. Fortunately, there is a fairy godmother – a Mrs. Albion, played by Hattie Jacques – who comes along in his wake and sets the characters in the park skipping, loving and dancing once more with the aid of her magic scarf.

A classic piece not-entirely-innocent 1950s Bohemia, The Pleasure Garden won the Prix de Fantaisie Poetique at Cannes in 1954, and is an irresistible time capsule for viewers now.

Lovers of the history of Crystal Palace will also find much to treasure in this 1950s time capsule of a film, which shows the Crystal Colannade and the bandstand (both later demolished), the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Memorial, and much of the statuary which was to be auctioned off in 1957.

The Pleasure Garden won the Prix de Fantaisie Poetique at Cannes in 1954.