Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Film Review

TROUBLE IN PARADISE

Release Date: 21 October, 1932

Studio: Paramount

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Starring: Herbert Marshall, Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins

Special Notes: TCM Classic Film Festival, 2012

Trouble in Paradise was featured in the Built By Design: Architecture in Film and Deco Design theme at the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival. Matt Tyrnauer, writer and editor at Vanity Fair, introduced the film.

Synopsis

Elegant and sophisticated thieves Marshall and Hopkins meet and fall in love among the palaces and canals of Venice. Transferring their activities to Paris, they plan to rob rich businesswoman Francis. Marshall becomes her latest private secretary, living in her Art Deco mansion. When Francis indicates her attraction to him, Marshall is responsive and Hopkins becomes jealous. Ultimately Marshall has to choose between the two women.

Discussion

This witty and subtle love triangle film is filled with Lubitsch “touch” sexual innuendo. Upon meeting Hopkins, Marshall steals a garter from her leg. Francis tells Marshall that the previous private secretary appreciated the bed with the highly decorated frame — too much. Background doors, open and closed, provide mute, but sexually suggestive, statements about foreground interactions between Francis and Marshall.

Travis Banton designed superb costumes for Hopkins and Francis. Hopkins' gown in her first scene provides Marshall plenty of reason to fall for her. Francis looks particularly beautiful not only in her gowns but also with her hair styling and makeup.

Guest Matt Tyrnauer discussed the architectural settings of the film. Venice contrasts strongly with Paris. The exteriors and the beautiful hotel room in Venice demonstrate the Paramount version of the Venetian baroque. The Paris settings display Avant-garde styles. Francis lives in a sophisticated Art Deco house. Lubitsch and set decorator Hans Dreier had a visual style derived from their films in Germany. The Paris scenes show examples of the German modernism of Bauhaus. The film predates built examples of modernism in the US and demonstrated this style to the American public. For example, the tall glass tower seen in an establishing shot of Francis's factory represents an architectural style that did not exist in the US at the time. The Paris scenes are an extraordinary preview of the architectural style of the coming decades.