I watched Ernst Lubitsch’s ‘Trouble in Paradise’ last evening; a film made in 1932 and considered by one critic to be as “as close to perfection as anything I have ever seen in the movies.”  Lubitsch himself was known as “a director’s director” and was the role model for Billy Wilder amongst other well known directors. I am reproducing a review by ‘Larry41 onEbay’ that does ample justice and also obviates the necessity of my critique. Film aficionados should check the movie out. Here goes…..

 Ernst Lubitsch used Laszlo Aladar’s play The Honest Finder as a springboard for one of his most delightful early-1930s Paramount confections. Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins play Gaston and Lily, a pair of Parisian thieves, both disguised as nobility, who decide to rob lovely perfume company executive Mariette Colet (Kay Francis); Gaston gets a job as Mariette’s confidential secretary, while Lily installs herself as the woman’s typist. Love rears its head, forcing Gaston to choose between marriage to Mariette and a fast getaway with Lily. Filled with marvelous throwaway gags and sophisticated innuendo, Trouble in Paradise was described by one critic as “as close to perfection as anything I have ever seen in the movies.”

For over seven decades this film has been unmatched in the realm of sophisticated farce. Films from THE AWFUL TRUTH to THE LADY EVE to SOME LIKE IT HOT are sublime on their more modest social scale and in their basic Americanness. By contrast, TROUBLE IN PARADISE has all the class and Continental elegance one associates with the Paramout of the 1930s. Made before the Production Code clampdown of 1934, this Lubitsch masterpiece shows his talent for sly sexual innuendo at its most witty and polished. The result is pure caviar, only tastier. The story tells of two jewel thieves, Gaston (Marshall) and Lily (Hopkins), who together work at bilking a merry widow, Mariette Colet (Francis), out of a small fortune. They secure jobs as her secretary and maid, but trouble begins in paradise when Gaston starts falling for his lovely prey and when one of her many suitors (Horton), a former victim of Gaston’s, begins to recognize Mme. Colet’s new secretary. The many laughs in this consistently delightful souffle come not only from Raphaelson’s marvelous screenplay but also from Lubitsch’s supple visual wit. On one hand there’s delightful repartee about a former secretary who enjoyed an antique bed a bit too much, and on the other we have the sexy silhouette of Gaston and Mariette cast over a chaise lounge. From the opening shot of an operatic gondolier who turns out to be a garbageman to a police report about theft and tonsils translated for Italian officials, this film is full of unforgettable moments of merriment. The cast, too, is peerless. In one of his earliest Hollywood efforts, Herbert Marshall does the greatest work of his career. Too often maligned for playing stodgy consorts to dynamic star actresses such as Garbo, Davis, and Shearer, Marshall here gets to display his impeccable timing and supple grace. Frequently hilarious, his quiet approach and crushed velvet voice still let him remain suave throughout. Even Cary Grant would be hard pressed to match this portrayal. (He’d be too frantic.) Kay Francis, too, that popular sufferer of countless “women’s films” with her “twoublesome” r’s, gives of her very best. With her sleek, glamorous style and elegantly wry line readings, she is light, sexy, and totally captivating. Her doorway caresses and her finger-snapping seduction of Gaston are priceless. Miriam Hopkins was luckier in that she had many more chances to display her comic flair in film. Today one of the most underrated and unfairly maligned stars of the 1930s, the brittle, feisty Hopkins can rattle off witty banter at a breakneck pace or she can be deliciously languorous and coy. Her enjoyment of her own sexuality is heady even today and the thieving competition between Gaston and Lily, in which escalating crimes turn into escalating passion, remains one of the greatest scenes of foreplay ever caught on film. Ruggles and Horton prove yet again that they are two of the greatest farceurs in Hollywood, and the rest of the cast is equally choice. (One standout is Leonid Kinskey, whose bit as a leftist radical only foregrounds the satiric anarchy of the entire film.) Beautifully handled from start to finish, gleamingly shot and full of Dreier’s incredible Art Deco designs, TROUBLE IN PARADISE is Lubitsch’s greatest film and one of the indisputable highlights of comic cinema Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, the master of sophisticated comedy, Trouble in Paradise (1932) is the most accomplished example of the “Lubitsch Touch” for stylish innuendo and sly wit. With a script by Samson Raphaelson and Grover Jones, Lubitsch derives sparkling humor from the lusty (Pre-Code) love triangle among two jewel thieves, Lily and Gaston, and their intended victim, Mme. Colet. From the opening image of a garbage gondola’s gliding through the picturesque Venice canals, Lubitsch makes light of the notion that amorality lies beneath the glossy exteriors of the rich. Elegantly sending up idealized movie romance, Gaston and Lily fall in love as they attempt to rob each other blind over an intimate dinner, sealing a bond between two scoundrels. Such Lubitsch details as a hand’s hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on a doorknob and the shadow of a couple cast on a bed neatly communicate the nature of Gaston’s relationships with Lily and Mme. Colet, complementing the clever dialogue, spiked with nimble come-ons and ripostes, and delivered with aplomb by Herbert Marshall, Miriam Hopkins, and Kay Francis. Praised for its smoothly imaginative technique and comic invention, Trouble in Paradise burnished Lubitsch’s reputation as Paramount’s premier purveyor of 1930s Continental class, and it is still considered one of the best adult comedies ever made.

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