Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Trouble in Paradise (1932)

TROUBLE IN PARADISE is a lighter-than-air pre-Code confection directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

Gaston and Lily (Herbert Marshall, Miriam Hopkins) are romantically involved jewel thieves whose latest mark is an elegant Parisian widow, Mariette (Kay Francis). Gaston takes a position as Mariette's secretary, with Lily as his assistant. The "trouble in paradise" brews when Gaston, who still loves Lily, also finds himself falling for Mariette.

Words cannot adequately convey this movie's charm and elegance. I loved Marshall as a millionaire butler in IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935), and he's even more debonair in this. Miriam Hopkins' enthusiastic crook is a completely different kind of character from those she played opposite, say, Bette Davis. And was Kay Francis ever more lovely than in this film? Add in a great script, amazingly gorgeous Art Deco sets, and beautiful gowns by Travis Banton, and you have cinema perfection.

One of the most appealing things about the movie is that it is quite unpredictable, told in a very sophisticated manner. Lubitsch is never obvious, but tells the story in an indirect way and lets the audience put the pieces together. The first 10 minutes of the movie are a great illustration of this, as moment by moment the characters and plot are revealed in unique ways. (For the specifics, do see the movie yourself!) The plot of this 82-minute film moves at a fast pace, with Lubitsch using interesting dissolves to move the story along more quickly. I'm looking forward to the commentary track so I can absorb more of the film's details on the second viewing.

As a side note, there are a couple of scenes where the shadow of a microphone is visible on a wall -- an interesting reminder of the difficulties of moving actors around in early sound films.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE is available on DVD from the Criterion Collection. Extras include a commentary by Lubitsch biographer Scott Eyman, an introduction by Peter Bogdanovich, and a radio performance starring Claudette Colbert, Basil Rathbone, and Jack Benny.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

A DVD review was posted at Salon. (Did you know that Salon was founded by the son of actor Lyle Talbot?) And here's another review by Glenn Erickson at DVD Savant. You may want to save the reviews for after seeing the film if you don't want to know too much of the plot in advance.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing TROUBLE IN PARADISE for the first time. Highly recommended.

2 Comments:

Blogger Craig Clarke said...

Great review. TiP is definitely a terrific film, and my personal favorite. Thanks for spreading the good word about it.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for stopping by! I enjoyed checking out your Kay Francis page.

Best wishes,
Laura

10:27 AM  

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