Jill, a young dancer, arrives in London with a letter of introduction to Mr. Hamilton, proprietor of the Pleasure Garden Theatre. The letter and all her money are stolen from her handbag as she waits to see him. Patsy, a chorus girl at the Pleasure Garden, sees her difficulty and offers to take her to her own lodgings and to try to get her a job. Next morning Jill is successful in getting a part in the show. Her fiance, Hugh, arrives with a colleague called Levet. Hugh and Patsy become very close while Jill is being pursued by a number of rich men, eventually breaking up with Hugh in order to begin a relationship with the wealthy Prince Ivan. Not long after this, Hugh is sent to Africa by his company.
Jill moves out of the lodgings she shares with Patsy and becomes more involved with the Prince. As she becomes more successful and used to the rich and famous lifestyle she also becomes more dismissive of Patsy, shunning her and eventually seeing her as a commoner. As Patsy laments the loss of her friend, she is comforted by Levet who convinces her to enter into marriage with him. The couple honeymoon in Italy before he leaves to join Hugh in Africa. After some time Patsy finally receives a letter from her husband in which he says he has been sick for weeks. Patsy is determined to go to take care of him and asks Jill to lend her the fare. Jill refuses as she is preparing for her marriage to the Prince and has no money to spare. Patsy is able to borrow the fare from her landlords Mr and Mrs Sidey. When she arrives at her husband's bungalow, she finds that he is having an affair with a local woman and leaves. Levet tries to drive the woman away but when she refuses to leave him, follows her into the sea and drowns her.
Meanwhile, Patsy has found that Hugh really is very ill with a fever and stays to take care of him. Hugh has since discovered from a newspaper that Jill is to marry the Prince and he and Patsy soon realize that they love each other. Levet finds them together and accuses Hugh of making advances to his wife. Patsy agrees to follow Levet back to his bungalow in order to save Hugh. During the night, Levet is stricken with guilt and paranoia over the murder of his mistress and begins seeing ghostly visions of her. Levet becomes convinced that the ghost of his mistress will not stop haunting him until he murders Patsy too. Levet corners Patsy with a sword but he is shot dead before he can kill her. Hugh and Patsy find consolation with each other and return to London.
Parts of the movie scenes were filmed in Lierna, Lake Como.Virginia Valli as Patsy Brand
Carmelita Geraghty as Jill Cheyne
Miles Mander as Levet
John Stuart as Hugh Fielding
Ferdinand Martini as Mr. Sidey
Florence Helminger as Mrs. Sidey
Georg H. Schnell as Oscar Hamilton
Karl Falkenberg as Prince Ivan
Hitchcock described the casting process thus:
Michael Balcon, who had conceived the idea of "importing" American stars long before anybody else, had engaged Virginia Valli for the leading role. She was at the height of her career then – glamorous, famous, and very popular. That she was coming to Europe to make a picture at all was something of an event.
Producer Michael Balcon allowed Hitchcock to direct the film when Graham Cutts, a jealous executive at Gainsborough Pictures, refused to let Hitchcock work on The Rat.
The film was shot in Italy and Germany. Many misfortunes befell the cast and crew. When Gaetano Ventimiglia, the film's cinematographer, failed to hide the film from Italian customs officials, the team had to pay fines and buy new film, seriously depleting their budget.
For the only time in a British Hitchcock production, both lead actresses, Virginia Valli and Carmelita Geraghty, were American.
The film was shot in 1925 and shown to the British press in March 1926 but not officially released in the UK until 1927, after Hitchcock's film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog became a massive hit in February 1927.
In June 2012, thanks to a $3 million project, The Pleasure Garden and eight other silent Hitchcock films were restored by the British Film Institute. As a result, 20 minutes of improved footage was added to this film, along with "the atmospheric color tinting of the period".
According to critic Dave Kehr, The Pleasure Garden's opening scene stands like a virtual "clip reel of Hitchcock motifs to come". The very first shot captures chorus girls descending a spiral staircase (see Vertigo); a man uses opera glasses to better appreciate a blond chorus dancer (see Rear Window); and the same blond, who at first appears erotically remote, later emerges as down-to-earth and approachable (see Family Plot).Lierna, Lake Como