Trouble in Paradise

I value the films I can watch over and over again and always get something new from them.  My favorite film, “The Wizard of Oz,” is certainly on that list.  Another favorite of mine, “Trouble in Paradise,” from 1932, remains charming and almost hypnotic in its dialogue and pacing.  Herbert Marshall, Mariam Hopkins and Kay Frances pull off the magic in this Ernst Lubitsch film.

Kay Francis (left), Mariam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall form a love triangle in Lubitsch’s “Trouble in Paradise.”

I’ve heard critics complain of the story in Trouble in Paradise, calling it too slight.  I don’t believe that.  Lubitsch and the screenwriters (including Samson Raphaelson) concentrate fully on romance.  Marshall, as master-thief Gaston Monescu, travels with Lily, a pickpocket played by Hopkins, to Paris after pulling off a heist in Venice.  In Paris, they meet the rich owner of a perfume company, Madame Colet, played by the delightful Kay Francis.  While they scheme to rob her, Madame Colet falls for Gaston, sending Lily into fits of jealousy.

Edward Everett Horton and Charles Ruggles play two suitors vying for Madame Colet’s affection.  Their bickering adds a light touch to the plot without straining the main story.  Lubitsch opens the film with a night-time view of a garbage scow and its owner collecting garbage on a Venice canal.  Soon, we become aware of a robbery as the escaping villain in silhouette sheds his disguise.  We then cut to an elegant scene in a hotel suite featuring Marshall and Hopkins.  Gaston says, “Beginnings are always difficult.”  It’s Lubitsch saying that the thieves in this film are not common and are above the fray.

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