Movies You Might Have Missed: Trouble in Paradise

TitleTrouble in Paradise
Release Date: 1932
Rating: N/A
Length: 83 minutes
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Starring: Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Walker
Language: English
Country: USA

This is certainly a pre-Code film. Crime pays, there’s quite a bit of innuendo, and plenty of implied non-marital relations. Nowadays it would still be a mild PG because of the deft hand of the director giving it that Lubitsch touch.

We begin by being introduced to a Herbert Walker and Miriam Hopkins meeting for dinner and… Well, clearly they are engaged in an amour. They are in the romantic city of Venice, but we learn quickly that theirs is not quite the standard fairy-tale romance. Each is surprised to take the the true measure of the other and learn a carefully hidden secret (no spoilers!), but the secrets are serendipitous and make them both even more suited to one another than they could have expected. As a result, they become much more permanently attached, eschewing the fling that both had initially expected and intended.

The movie then skips ahead in time and space to find them in Paris, still very much in love with each other. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the audience, it is not to last. In the course of their professional lives, the man makes a connection with a beautiful and wealthy perfume heiress played to perfection by the incomparable Kay Francis. The designs the heiress has on our hero are far from merely professional, however!

Her money, glamour, beauty, sophistication, and money begin to turn his head. Hopkins isn’t going to give him up without a fight, and wades right in to get him back where he belongs. Trouble in Paradise, indeed!

The movie also has Charles Ruggles and (one of my favorite comic actors) Edward Everett Horton in minor parts as spurned suitors for Francis. Robert Grieg hits all the right notes as Francis’ butler. The ending feels rather modern, given the lack of Code restraint and the whole thing is a fun and surprisingly quick classic film for grown-ups.

If you’re not familiar with Lubitsch, this will provide a good introduction. If you’ve seen his later work, you’ll get a new spin on what he could do when not so constrained by the powers-that-be. Either way, I fully expect you’ll enjoy this movie.

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