Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

It's no problem to watch Trouble in Paradise.

This romantic comedy from director Ernst Lubitsch (Heaven Can Wait) is a true gem filled with great performances and an incredibly witty script.


This film, which remains a joy to watch 80 years after its release, is a must-see.

Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) is a true talent in the business of fraud. He works his way around Europe fleecing the very rich. When he strikes at a peace conference, a police reporter sums up his effectiveness with "He took practically everything except the peace."

Monescu finds love with another thief, Lily (Miriam Hopkins). A talented team of schemers is born.

"I love you," Monescu tells Lily early in the film. "I loved you the moment I saw you. I'm mad about you, my little shoplifter. My sweet little pickpocket. My darling."

Monescu sees a prime opportunity for a major score by targeting Mariette Colet (Kay Francis), the widow of a perfume boss. This lady is r-i-c-h. She's busy turning down other suitors ("Marriage is a beautiful mistake which two people make together, but with you I think it would be a mistake.")

PLEASURE MIXES WITH BUSINESS Monescu smooth talks his way into becoming Colet's secretary with plans for a major heist in a matter of weeks. But it's hard for him to separate business from pleasure when he finds himself falling for the stunning Colet.

"I came here to rob you, but unfortunately fell in love with you," he tells her.

Lily gets wise to Monescu's funny business just as an earlier victim gets suspicious of Colet's new hired hand. The fraudsters plan to head to Germany, but will Monescu ride the rails to freedom or try and make a go of things with Colet?

"I love you as a crook," Lily says when she first gets suspicious about his intentions with his latest mark. "I worship you as a crook. Steal, swindle, rob, oh but don't become one of those useless good-for-nothing gigolos."

Who writes this kind of dialogue now?

Trouble in Paradise offers quick jabs at advertising ("Remember it doesn't matter what you say. It doesn't matter how you look. It's how you smell.") and the affluence of the rich during the Great Depression. Colet is berated by a Communist (Leonid Kinskey) for spending so much money on jewelry.

The more recent Lost in Translation offered an interesting scene where Bill Murray whispers something to Scarlett Johansson. The audience can't hear what's said. Lost in Translation has several such scenes as well as numerous quick edits when characters react to news from others. Here's an example. A female character at a start of an opera sings, "I love you." When the film moves ahead to later in the show, things have changed. "I hate you," she sings. Great stuff.

Hey, there's even a nod to the rich being treated differently than the average Joe when it comes to crime. Shades of the financial meltdown of 1988 anyone? "You have to be in the social registry to keep out of jail," suggests Monescu. Zap!

This movie-goer suffered thorugh nearly three hours of The Dark Knight Rises. Trouble in Paradise wins your heart in just 83 minutes. Watch this movie!

RATING: 10/10

FUN FACTS: Leonid Kinskey was a bartender in Casablanca, Professor Overbeck in television's Batman and an agitator, again, in Duck Soup.

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