"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

February 25, 2012

Classic Film: "Trouble in Paradise" (1932) by Lubitsch

Trouble in Paradise (1932) by Ernst Lubitsch is such a wonderful, charming film that it is difficult to do it justice in this short review. The film starts in Venice, with a shot of the famous canals, although we don't see tourists gliding through the city, but a boat collecting garbage. Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall), a suave gentleman thief, and Lily Vautier (Miriam Hopkins), a lady pickpocket, happen to meet here in a luxury hotel and steal each other's heart (plus some other stuff - Gaston has managed to remove Lily's garter from her thigh, which he doesn't return).

They decide to join hearts and techniques and a year later can be  found in Paris. Gaston has stolen the bejeweled bag of a beautiful  perfume company owner, Mme. Mariette Colet (Kay Francis), but when he sees an advertisement promising a finder's fee higher than the value of the bag, he returns it as the "honest finder." Already at the first meeting with the dark Mme. Colet, sparks are flying between them. Take the following conversation:
"If I were your father, which fortunately I am not,'' Gaston says, "and you made any attempt to handle your own business affairs, I would give you a good spanking - in a business way, of course.''
"What would you do if you were my secretary?''
"The same thing.''
"You're hired.''
In this way, Gaston is hired as Mme Colet's confidential secretary (under the alias of "Monsieur Laval") and he brings in Lily as his assistant. They are planning to rob the safe of Mme Colet and Gaston takes care that it is well stocked. But there is one hitch: Gaston and Mme. Colet have fallen in love. This is of course not to the taste of Gaston's soul mate in crime, Lily. Neither is it to the taste of popular Mme Colet's band of other suitors. Jealous, they start various rumors about "M. Laval" and of them now even remembers having met him in Venice, when he posed as a doctor. While his false identity is in danger, Gaston must choose between marriage with Mme. Colet and a getaway with the loot and Lily - although he rather would like to have it both ways...

The film is beautifully shot, the art-deco sets and costumes are incredible, the script is full of witty and racy dialogues, and everybody gives a wonderful performance. Unbelievable that this gracious movie was withdrawn from circulation between 1935 to 1968 because of Hollywood censorship (the infamous Hays code, which turned the U.S. film world into a sort of Kindergarten). It is not possible to come closer to perfection than in this intoxicating comedy...

My evaluation: 10 points out of 10 for Mme. Colet letting Gaston go with a sigh of "It would have been divine."
Ebert; Schwartz; Mythical Monkey; Filmsite