Monday 23 October 2017

My Top Ten Films of all Time (4) - TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1932)

Ernst Lubitsch
There is a lovely review of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 masterpiece Trouble in Paradise on Roger Ebert’s website which you can find if you click here. Among the quite extensive analysis is the information about Herbert Marshall’s wooden leg. There is also a very good essay by Armond White on the Criterion website if you click here

Between 1914-1919 Lubitsch had worked on dozens of films as director, writer and actor. Many of them are still available and you can buy an excellent box set titled “Lubitsch in Berlin” from Kino Lorber in the US.

Between 1920-1923 Lubitsch released another seven films in Germany. By 1922 however he was in Hollywood having accepted an invitation from Mary Pickford to come to America and make movies together. Only one film was made by the pair, Rosita (USA, 1923) and one of the glories of the year thus far has been the presentation of a restored version of this long hard to see movie. Kristin Thompson reported on the restoration and the premiere at Venice just last month on the esteemed Observations on Film Art blog.  

Lubitsch made 16 films after Rosita before, in 1932, he made Trouble in Paradise. My own copy is not the state of the art Criterion edition but a DVD taped off air so long ago it has the FX logo in the corner. However, at Bologna this year I watched a newly-restored copy that wiped out a packed house at the large Arlecchino cinema. I wept as did many others.

The film disappeared from view not long after its release. It was shunted aside from public viewing once the wowser code administrators got into stride. Trouble In Paradise  only re-appeared in the late 60s. I don't recall when I saw it first but I think it was at one of Michael Campi's Saturday night soirees back in the 70s or so when I would drive down to Melbourne from Canberra for the weekend. 

Francis, Marshall, Hopkins
So much elegance, so much grace, so much snaky maneuvering between gentleman thief Herbert Marshall, his paramour Miriam Hopkins and the woman he robs, falls for and ultimately rejects Kay Francis. Gloriously delicate comedy played out in expensive Venetian and Parisian hotel rooms by people in dinner suits and lamé frocks. That’s the paradise! The trouble derives from Marshall’s conflicted senses, smothered by his supercool exterior. Few wore a dinner suit as well as Herbert Marshall. Fewer still were as glamourous and desirable as Miriam Hopkins and nobody had a slight lisp that rendered their voice so sexy as Kay Francis.

The hilarity arising from the trouble is endlessly entertaining.
Criterion DVD cover


  1. In the 60s TROUBLE IN PARADISE was part of the BFI's repertory of the all time important movies designed to save them all the trouble in finding prints and documentation. They were telling us that their selection was all we needed to watch. That plan faded rapidly.

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