Trouble in Paradise

Screening on Film
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
With Miriam Hopkins, Herbert Marshall, Kay Francis.
US, 1932, 35mm, black & white, 83 min.
Print source: Universal

If the romantic triangle is the quintessential Lubitschean plot device, few films in the director’s career exercise it more rewardingly than Trouble in Paradise. Teaming Herbert Marshall, Miriam Hopkins and Kay Francis as high-society swindlers falling in and out of tentative romantic couplings amidst the opulent excesses of Venice and Paris, the film dances around the porous line between fakery and authenticity, exposing romance as an intricate charade rooted in an unspoken undercurrent of sex. Hopkins is the dashing, openhearted pickpocket, Francis is the heiress with enough money to fund her desires, and Marshall is the well-mannered jewel thief with eyes for both of them. Trouble in Paradise sets in motion a chain of trysts involving the members of this trio in which surface-level dramatic ironies—questions of who’s fooling whom with regards to stolen goods, for instance—stand in for the latent energies firing off between the characters, with the seeming plainness of Lubitsch’s shooting style just barely concealing the lustful heat simmering beneath the dialogue. 

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That Certain Feeling... The Touch of Ernst Lubitsch

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