June 21, 2002
11:58 PM   Subscribe

The Garden of Allah, at times, does not reflect the first images that come to mind. It is the title of an amazing 1904 Robert Smythe Hichens book that spawned not one, or two, but three movies, including a 1936 Marlene Dietrich classic; and inspired a 1918 Maxfield Parrish painting. In a seemingly unrelated coincidence a famous contemporary Hollywood hangout spot was also called The Garden of Allah; razing of which prompted Joni Mitchell to sing: "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." [Gossip] Journalist Sheilah Graham wrote a book on this Hollywood landmark where once her love interest F. Scott Fitzgerald lived. I don't think Don Henley drew from any of these two for one of the two original songs in his 1995 Actual Miles album or its controvertial video.
[ In order: I heard the Joni Mitchell song, without knowing of its inspiration, and then in the span of a few months saw the replica of the Hollywood landmark and came in contact with the original Parrish painting. I eventually read the Hichens book. I have yet to see the movies or read the Graham book.]

posted by tamim (12 comments total)
Wonderful post, thank you for the work that went into it :)

Now I know all I wanted to know about the Garden of Allah.
posted by azazello at 7:42 AM on June 22, 2002

The perfect post. Says everything about something interesting I'd never heard about; makes me reevaluate the incidentals(Mitchell song, Parrish painting)and the generalities(Hollywood)and leaves me breathless to discover something(the Hichens book)I otherwise wouldn't have bothered to even consider.

Thanks again, tamim. Thank you really. The care and intelligence you put into your contributions to MetaFilter have the knack of not being shaming or overbearing - they're just inspiring and beautiful in the way they're built and presented.

(And this is me holding back, believe me!)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:07 PM on June 22, 2002

It is quite the awesome post.

With Parrish’s technique of painting with countless transparent glazes, the originals are so luminous—as the article there linked suggests—that it seems you have to see the paintings in person to appreciate his colors.

He had but one pupil: Hannes Bok.

However, as to Parrish’s painting being related to Hitchen’s novel, I must demur. Consider this excerpt from the cached Sabine article on Parrish:
Maxfield Parrish experienced enormous success with his designs for candy box covers for Crane's Chocolates. Crane offered its customers the right to buy reproductions of Omar Khayyam for ten cents. The response was overwhelming to both Crane and Parrish. Crane ordered 2,000 more prints and immediately sold out. Order forms were placed in every box of Crane's Chocolates. Two other successful sellers were Cleopatra and Garden of Allah. In 1918, Parrish received more than $50,000 in royalties from these three paintings.
I believe the phrase reproductions of Omar Khayyam tells the story. I wonder if perhaps the phrase Garden of Allah is derived ultimately from either the Rubaiyat or The Thousand And One Nights. The painting seems to bear no relation to the story of a cloistered heiress meeting an escaped Trappist monk in the North African desert.

But other than that picked nit, it’s still an awesome post. And I always like it when people link to Tigertail—I think their art reproductions are the finest online.
posted by y2karl at 11:38 PM on June 22, 2002

It is a nice post, and as a Robert Benchley fan I've long known about the G. of A. But the Joni Mitchell link you provide says that the song was written about a parking lot in Hawaii.
posted by LeLiLo at 3:25 PM on June 23, 2002

Lots of links, but...um...I don't get it.
posted by rushmc at 6:18 AM on June 24, 2002

From The Garden of Allah:

In the hotel the fair and plump Italian waiter, who had drifted to North Africa from Pisa, had swept up the crumbs from the two long tables in the salle-a-manger, smoked a thin, dark cigar over a copy of the Depeche Algerienne, put the paper down, scratched his blonde head, on which the hair stood up in bristles, stared for a while at nothing in the firm manner of weary men who are at the same time thoughtless and depressed, and thrown himself on his narrow bed in the dusty corner of the little room on the stairs near the front door.

I think we have a candidate for the Bulwer-Lytton Worst First Sentence contest here...
posted by jokeefe at 1:06 PM on June 24, 2002

Lots of links, but...um...I don't get it

Rushmc: you're joking, right?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:25 PM on June 24, 2002

Nope, makes absolutely no sense to me...a bunch of seemingly unrelated links tied together by some sort of conceptual hub? Most of which seem to be info links to various books, movies, and other pop stuff? Please, explain.
posted by rushmc at 2:18 PM on June 24, 2002

The People demand that the Contribution Index of tamim remain at .9999999999999999999999999999999999 until tamim sees fit to rescind the 1.0 barrier.

posted by skyscraper at 9:55 PM on June 24, 2002

Rushmc, you devil: it's a chain reaction involving the evocative words "Garden of Allah" sparked off by the success of the original Hichens book. The dadaistic diversity and ramifications are the point.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:44 AM on June 25, 2002

Oh, okay.

(I still don't get it, but hey, to each his own.)
posted by rushmc at 8:37 AM on June 25, 2002

hey! there's also the enya connection :)
posted by kliuless at 6:14 PM on June 25, 2002

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