Trouble in Paradise

Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1932, 82 minutes

Trouble in Paradise is a sophisticated comedy; in fact it is almost a definition of that type of film. It focuses on debonair, handsome Gaston (played by the ever large-suited Herbert Marshall) and his romance with the sharp-witted Lily (slinky Miriam Hopkins, Lubitsch's favourite actress). Gaston is not the man he seems, his suave charm and society conversation hide the fiact that he's a roguish, daring jewel-thief. Lily herself is posing as the countess of Venice in order to mingle with the upper crust of society and she is a singularly deft, gifted pick-pocket. Gaston and Lily predictably fall in love and join forces to fleece the rich of their riches. Their victim is Madame Colet, the widowed owner of a perfume company. Unfortunately for Lily, Colet is young, attractive and available and Gaston seems to confuse larceny with romance.

What makes this film so delightfully funny are the characters, not situation. The rich set, superbly played by character actors Charlie Ruggles, C. Aubrey Smith and Edward Everett Horton, are portrayed a slow, self-adoring fools.

Gaston doesn't have to be stupid, because he's only pretending to be rich; he is so perfectly talented that he can, and does, steal a woman's underwear while she's wearing it. He and Lily aren't really baddies: when they steal it is for adventure more than profit. They live the hilarious life that any of us would live if only we were charming, suave and witty enough.

This was Lubitsch's favourite film, starring his favourite actors, and dealing with his favourite subjects - jewel thieves and rich idiots; topics he dealt with time and again. It's interesting to note that this was made so long ago that the whole cast, and most of the Paramount technicians are now dead. It therefore immortalises this long gone period.

You won't notice it, but Herbert Marshall lost a leg in World War I, making his four decades of stardom seem pretty remarkable.

Review by Martin Hunt
Taken from EUFS Programme 1992-93