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UCLA Festival of Preservation

Trouble in Paradise w/Dinah

After the screening, Lightbox Members are invited to join us for a special Members-only reception to celebrate the conclusion of our month-long UCLA Festival of Preservation series and to recognize Louis Bluver’s generous support of Lightbox Film Center. 

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Trouble in Paradise

Ernest Lubitsch, US, 1932, 35mm, 81 min., b/w

The playboy/thief Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) meets the expert pickpocket Lily (Miriam Hopkins) on the Riviera, and they, of course, fall in love.  Initially, they try to steal from each other—a kind of foreplay among thieves—then realize their mutual interests make them a perfect team.  In Paris, Gaston gets a job as personal secretary to the wealthy heiress to a perfume company, Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis), hiring Lily as maid, so they can rob her blind.  Unfortunately, while cleaning up the corruption on her company's board, and settling into a comfortable lifestyle, he also falls in love with her, and must decide between two women, one who offers excitement, the other, stability. 

Ernst Lubitsch had become a master of the marital comedy in the silent era with films like Lady Windermere's Fan (1925) and So This is Paris (1926), and no director was better at exposing the false morality of the bourgeoisie when pursuing sexual desire.  Here, Lubitsch sets up a faux marriage, then turns the relationship into a ménage à trois, which he provocatively suggests may be the best way to keep a sexual relationship interesting and stable, because it has been liberated from the strictures of middle class morality.  Lubitsch's direction of actors is almost Pirandellian, with the actors speaking their emotional lines in a virtual monotone, thus creating parodies of romantic love, demonstrated by actors who play themselves, playing a character in a film.  The film's inherent naturalism is thus continually called into question by artifice, as in the opening scene when a Venetian gondolier is heard singing a romantic song in the moonlight, while the ensuing image reveals that he is a garbage collector loading refuse into his gondola.  Lubitsch is a director of surfaces that continually reveal themselves to be illusions, and thus pointing to the absurdity of human existence.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation and The Film Foundation

Preceded by:


Dave Fleischer, US, 1932, 35mm, 7 min.

By the early 1930s, John, Herbert, Harry and Donald Mills, a.k.a. The Mills Brothers, had established themselves as one of the biggest acts on radio with their unique four-part harmonizing accentuated by their uncanny ability to imitate musical instruments with their voices.  They made their big screen debut in Paramount’s The Big Broadcast (1932) before being featured in three Fleischer Bros. “Screen Song” shorts, including this one, which invites you to follow the bouncing ball and sing along with their rollicking rendition of “Dinah."

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The International Animated Film Society (ASIFA-Hollywood)

The UCLA Festival of Preservation is Co-Presented by Louis Bluver.