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Trouble in Paradise
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch with Herbert Marshall, Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins, C. Aubrey Smith, Charles Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton, black and white, 83 minutes, 1932

Marshall, Francis and Smith

Herbert Marshall, Kay Francis and C. Aubrey Smith

By Carter B. Horsley


Before Cary Grant's buffonery, there was Herbert Marshall's aplomb, which was all the more remarkable because he did it with a bum leg, lost in World War I.
Grant, of course, would lose his goofiness and became the world's most dashing movie star, who would have given Sean Connery an inferiority complex. 
Marshall was as handsome and even more suave.

Both stars made us absolute believers they could do anything and always with a smile.  They made us not green with envy but gleeful that anything was possible.

In "Trouble in Paradise," Marshall plays Gaston Monsecu, a jewel thief.  Miriam Hopkins plays a pickpocket, Lily Vautier, Kay Francis plays Mariette Colet, the head of a perfume company.

In his review of the film, Roger Ebert notes that "the sexual undertones are surprisningly frank in this pre-Code 1932 film, and we understand that none of the three characters is in any danger of mistaking sex for love," adding that "Both Lily and Mariette know what they want, and Gaston knowns that he has it."  Gaston's "own feelings for them," Ebert continued, "are masked beneath an impenetrable veneer of sophisticiated banter."

In a June 13, 2003 article at The New York Times, Dave Kehr observed that "As Hollywood films becomes bigger, blander, more obvious and more condescending toward the audeience, there is nothing like a look at a Lubitsch masterpiece like 'Trouble in Paradise' (1932) to remind you that elegance, intelligence and conciseness are not incompatible with the movie business."

Kehr added that the director's daughter, Nicola recalled that great pianists such as Rubenstein and Horowitz would come over and her father would play the piano and "he wasn't shy about it all!"

The movie is based on Laszlo Aladar's 1913 play, "The Honest Finder," about a lady pickpocket and a gentleman thief who team up to con the owner of a perfume company.  The film's entry at, however, said that "the main character, Herbert Marshall's master thief, was based on the exploits of a real person, George Manolescu, a Romanian con man whose memoir was published in 1905, and became the basis for two silent films."

"Made before effective enforcement of the Production Code, the film is an example of pre-code cinema containing adult themes and sexual innuendo that was not permitted under the Code.  In 1935, when the Production Code was being enforced, the film was not approved for reissue and was not seen again until 1968.  Paramount was again rejected in 1943, when the studio wanted to make a musical version of the film," according to the Wikipedia entry, which also noted that film's gorgeous gowns were designed by Travis Banton."

According to the Wikipedia entry for Kay Francis, "she was the number one female star at the Warner Brothers studio and the highest paid American film actress," adding that her 5-foot-9-inch height made her Hollywood's tallest leading lady in the 1930s.  In 1928, she appeared in the "Elmer the Great" play on Broadway that was written by Ring Lardner, produced by George M. Cohan and starred Walter Huston, who was so impressed by her that encouraged her to make a screen test for Paramount pictures and she soon appeared in the Marx Brothers film "The Coconuts" made in Astoria in Queens.

"In 1937, Miss Francis received $227,500 in salary....and Harvey S. Firestone, the chairman of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, got $85,000," noted her August 27, 1968 obituary in The Times that also said that "there was a point in the mid thirties when hardly a wink of her eyelash when unreported - especially when the wink seemed to be aimed at one or another of her swains or suitors....She was the epitome of glamour and sexiness in the slinky evening dress in which she often portrayed 'the other woman' in motion pictures."


Marshall and Hopkins


Miriam Hopkins

On the other hand, or rather divan, Miriam Hopkins was petite and demure and was, according to her October 12, 1972 obituary in The Times, "remembered as one of the brighter golden girds of the Hollywood dream factories with her striking blond hair, peaches-and-cream complexion and Georgia-tinted drawl," adding that "in reflection, her friends recalled her as an extremely warm, witty and intellectual women who loved to recite poetry aloud to the circle of friends she invited to her elegant parties.  The late John O'Hara, who knew them well, once wrote that her parties were unlike most of those given by movie stars.  'most of her guests were chosen from the world of the intellect,' he noted, and they were there 'because Miriam knew them all, had read their work, had listened to their music, had bought their paintings.  They were not there because a secretary had given her a list of highbrows.'"

The obituary also noted that she turned down the movie "It Happened One Night," which won Claudette Colbert an Academy Award," adding that she said "it was just a silly comedy."

In "Trouble in Paradise," Hopkins, an adorable pixie, runs off with Marshall, but the viewer suspects that sultry and very elegant Francis will make another very grand entrance.  Sadly, there were no sequels and, in time, a lot of time, "perfect" people were no longer popular, or fashionable.

See Carter B. Horsley's list of the 500 Top Sound Films

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