Fig Leaves

Howard Hawks made his first big splash in 1926 with “Fig Leaves,” a silent film starring George O’Brien, Olive Borden and Phyllis Haver.  The film starts out in the Garden of Eden, where Eve (Borden) declares, “I have nothing to wear.”  Despite being wrapped in a leopard skin and having a closet full of fig leaves, Eve complains to Adam (O’Brien) who denies her request for more clothes.  Then, a snake arrives at their treehouse, chats with Eve and the film takes us to the modern day.

Olive Borden as Eve and George O'Brien as Adam

The slapstick comedy continues when Eve, seeking emancipation, takes a job as a model with a fashion studio.  Adam, a plumber, does not know about her new job, which she decided to take because of the goading of a neighbor, Alice (Haver).  In a fade from prehistoric times to the present day, we see that Alice represents the snake.  Hawks shoots many of the scenes in the fashion studio, where pretty models wear wonderfully designed gowns by Adrian.  Adrian designed costumes and gowns for dozens of movies, including “The Wizard of Oz (1939)” and “The Philadelphia Story (1940).”

Alice, a charming provocateur, flirts openly with Adam and steals a fur coat from Eve.  She flames the marital discord until Adam discovers his wife’s occupation and assumes Eve’s infidelity with the fawning fashion designer (George Beranger).   In the end, Alice turns back into the snake as Adam and Eve return to the garden of Eden.  There, they finally deal with the snake.

Hawks delivers a broad comic piece, and the film became the big hit that launched his incredible career as a director.  The special effects included paper mache dinosaurs and a very long snake that looks like a project from a high school crafts class.  The movie prefaces the broad comic techniques used in other Hawk’s films, including “Bringing Up Baby (1938)”

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