Monday, January 2, 2012

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Trouble in Paradise (1932) 
seen online via YouTube

One of the most rewarding things about watching old movies for this blog is that sooner or later, after watching enough movies, I start to recognize certain actors that I've seen over and over and  I make connections. For example: I wasn't too familiar with Miriam Hopkins. Then I saw her in Design For Living a couple of weeks ago, and Trouble in Paradise last night. I liked her in both, but as I watched her last night, I realized I'd seen her in something else too, and I struggled for a few minutes trying to figure it out. Then I went to IMDB and got the answer: she was Olivia de Havilland's aunt in The Heiress, a role from later in her career. Now this is one of my favorite movies ever. I've seen it so many times, but it's like I can appreciate it in a different way now that I know who she is.

So I'm continuing to check out the films of Ernst Lubitsch, obviously, and I liked Trouble a lot. I went into it without reading about it in advance. I didn't even know who was in it. It's about a pair of high-class thieves who try to run a game on a rich businesswoman. It's short - only 83 minutes - and yet it feels like there's a lot going on in it.

I think I'm beginning to understand this "Lubitsch touch" that people always talk about. He seemed to love setting his stories in Europe, for one thing, and made a point to use the native language wherever possible. Design begins with the main characters speaking French, and Trouble has Italian-speaking characters. Hopkins gets to not only speak French in the former, but Spanish and a little German in the latter.

There's always more than a little bit of glamor and sex appeal in his films. It's hard to explain why, but there's something about this movie in particular that feels palpably sexier than rom-coms made today. I think the glamor element may be a big reason why. Everybody dresses fancy, the ladies look fabulous, they run around European cities (or at least sets made up like those cities) and the situations they find themselves in, while important to them, never seem like a matter of life and death. Lubitsch makes it all seem... not so bad at worst. And it's genuinely funny.


  1. Trouble in Paradise is such a great movie. I'm not really that familiar with a lot of Lubitsch's work and need to check out more of his stuff. You're definitely right about the sex appeal, which likely wouldn't have passed the Hays Code if released much later. Nice review.

  2. Yeah, I should've mentioned that this is a pre-Code film. I'm sure that part of the enduring appeal of films like this and 'Design' is because it was made with fewer restrictions.


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