TROUBLE IN PARADISE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall, Charlie Ruggles, Edward
Everett Horton, C. Aubrey Smith
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Audio: Dolby Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 82 Minutes
Release Date: January 7, 2003
came here to rob you. But
unfortunately, I fell in love with you.”
Lubitsch was once as renowned a name in Hollywood as any of the famed directors
you can think of today. Some great
artists remain immortal; some fall through the cracks of memory through no fault
of his own. Though his name isn’t
spoken as much today as the likes of Capra, Ford, Wilder and others, most modern
cinema students agree: Lubitsch was
the man who brought Hollywood out of the era of Griffith and into the modern
much of what we have today in movies wouldn’t have been possible without the
influence of Lubitsch, who, among others, brought America her first movie
musicals, and some say, her first romantic comedies. It’s been said that Trouble in Paradise laid the
groundwork for every such movie that ever followed, but none have ever been made
quite as good. I’m inclined to
is an effervescent romp of crime, romance and satire, all told with the sense of
sophistication that would forever be referred to as “the Lubitsch touch”.
It’s simple story of love among thieves was ahead of its time…and a
good thing, too, as the production code in years ahead would have never allowed
such wonderful people to do such terrible things and get away with them.
a memorable opening shot, we are introduced to the beautiful city of Venice in a
rather unconventional way, focusing on a garbage toting gondola.
As the camera zips along through some tight and clever cuts, we see the
aftermath of a crime that will later come to light.
was committed by Gaston Monescu (Marshall), an expert thief, imposter and con
man with a charm ladies can’t seem to resist.
He is about to meet his match in Lily (Hopkins), equally adept in the
ways of crime. Their first date
centers around a hilarious scene where they take turns returning items each has
lifted off the other (“You don’t mind if I keep the garter, do you?”).
Naturally, they fall in love.
a handbag swipe brings Gaston face to face with perfume heiress Mariette Colet
(Francis), the couple seems to have hit upon a grand scheme.
Gaston becomes her personal secretary while plotting a daring robbery of
her household safe that he is manipulatively padding!
problem? Gaston and Mariette seem
to be falling in love, much to the dismay of Lily.
Unlike most romantic comedies, it’s hard to know which lady to root
for…the sweet but shallow Mariette, who is also being wooed by two rather
inept suitors in Filiba (Horton) and The Major (Ruggles), or Lily, who seems a
perfect match to Gaston right down to choice of profession!
outcome is not so important…getting there is all the fun, and Lubitsch brings
it all together with a terrific cast, a wonderful screenplay, and impeccable
camerawork and editing. One of my
favorite sequences has a romantic evening happening entirely OFF camera…we
only hear it while watching a clock mark the passage of time in a few clever
dissolves. Touches like that make
the movie priceless.
in Paradise is
movie going delight from the title screen to the end…pure screwball
sophistication that still seems as fresh today as it ever did.
The Lubitsch touch may be hard to put into words, but easy to understand
if you just watch one of his remarkable pictures.
film looks pretty good for being 70 years old, but it requires that
qualification. Aging can only be
offset so much, and here, we have images that range from slight to mid-level
softness, good clean whites but occasionally murky blacks, and a few instances
of noticeable print wear and scarring. All
of these are within the realm of understanding for such an old picture, but
nevertheless keep it from earning higher than average marks.
mono soundtrack from the early days of sound is presentable, but noticeably aged
as well. Though the dialogue is
clear and easily understood from start to finish, there is a bit of background
hiss that can’t be avoided (remember, these early talkies had their sound
recorded on phonograph records). I
didn’t notice any popping, crackling or other distractions, though, so
consider this serviceable track about as good as can be expected.
has amassed a good package of extras to go with this title, starting with a
studious and informative commentary track by Lubitsch biographer Scott Eyman.
He offers plenty of facts and insights, while pulling back at key moments
to let you enjoy the dialogue on screen…an enjoyable effort.
There is also a 10 minute introduction to the picture by Peter
Bogdanovich (an excellent listen), plus tributes to Lubitsch penned by the likes
of Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, Cameron Crowe, Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin and
others (some of the screens even show the papers in the author’s own
out are two special offerings: a
delightful German silent from 1917 directed by Lubitsch called The Merry Jail
(in extremely good condition for its age, and stylistically indicative of
what was to come in his Hollywood career) which clocks in at about 47 minutes,
and a 1940 Screen Guild Theatre radio program featuring Lubitsch along with
Claudette Colbert, Basil Rathbone and Jack Benny.
Terrific features for fans of the classics!