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.

March 2017 Update: I had the wonderful opportunity to see TROUBLE IN PARADISE on a big screen at the 2017 UCLA Festival of Preservation.

August 2018 Update: I enjoyed TROUBLE IN PARADISE at UCLA once more, paired with Ernst Lubitsch's ANGEL (1937).


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,

10:27 AM  
Blogger Charlieod said...

Just finished it tonight, I didn’t want it to end. Born in ‘38, I never had an interest in 30’s movies. English movies got me started and reading Laura’s reviews gave me a push. Yes, I agree re Kay Francis, she was drop dead gorgeous. I got distracted by the super elegant, Art Deco furnishings. The 📞, eat your heart out apple. The grandfather height clock, it was a standard face but design could have been early Dali.
Okay not that kinda clock face. Looked to have two arms going straight down on one side. Then the door handles , for the bedrooms,
Who looks at those? Hell I don’t know, but I did. Must have been a star stud lineup. Don’t know where to start. You could write a book.
Then the director, probably my first of his, just genius.
Hope I didn’t delete it.
Pls don’t go back in to see the bedroom door handles, they were very plain and very modern looking, but they’s beautiful.

12:49 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Charlieod, I'm delighted to know that my review helped encourage you to try out TROUBLE IN PARADISE. It's a perfect movie, isn't it? I hope you'll enjoy watching more Lubitsch films in the future, you have some wonderful viewing ahead.

Best wishes,

6:22 PM  
Blogger Charlieod said...

Maybe you missed your reviews effect on what I watch.
I’ve enjoyed some movies from the 30s before.
But I think your reviews influenced ( probably caused ) me to get now I’m be able to see below the surface. i.e. I can appreciate the acting much more than before and the directing too. I have enjoyed great scenic photography for a long time. But since learning how to better appreciate Noir , I get a big kick out of some of the incredible camera work in a lot of those movies.
Love the TCM guy, he’s a big jazz fan and I think boxing too.
Keep on writing !

7:29 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're very kind to tell me that. There's nothing I like better about blogging than knowing something I've written has led someone else to enjoy a movie...or multiple movies!

Best wishes,

9:03 AM  

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