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Trouble in Paradise

By Viv Wilby

Some years ago, the National Film Theatre (as it was then) asked members to nominate a little-seen film for a Christmas-showing. The winner was Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 romantic comedy, Trouble in Paradise. Co-written with Lubitsch’s regular collaborator, Samson ‘The Jazz Singer’ Raphaelson, Trouble in Paradise takes full advantage of the permissiveness that abounded before the enforcement of censor Will Hays’ Motion Picture Production Code in 1934. The script, which is heavy with sexual innuendo and irony, was considered too racy during the code era and re-issues were refused. The film wasn’t discovered again until the late 1960s.

Like a lot of early Hollywood comedies, the setting is old Europe: chic, cultured, decadent, gloriously wealthy. But Lubitsch doesn’t waste any time in making a central point (and a good visual gag). The garbageman we see in the very first shot is also an aria-singing gondolier, punting a heap of festering rubbish down the Grand Canal. Glamour, romance and escapism goes hand-in-hand with rottenness and filth. Continue reading Trouble in Paradise