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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Golden Widow

Trouble in Paradise (1932) on IMDb

Plot Overview

The opening song tells us:
Most any place can seem
To be a paradise
When you embrace
The one you adore.

… [But]
If there's something missing,
That signifies trouble in paradise.

In Venice a gondolier heaps refuse on a garbage gondola. A furtive figure fades into the shadows. A man lying prone on the floor François Filiba (Edward Everett Horton) rises shakily (“Mr. Filiba was robbed.”) A resplendent Countess Lily (Miriam Hopkins) arrives by boat for her dinner date with the well mannered baron Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall). I'm afraid some­body has been shoveling it on pretty thick. The “baron” is a pretender (“You're a crook”) and so is the “countess” (“You're a thief.”)

Dateline Paris. Perfume magnate, the golden widow Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis) spends money like there's no tomorrow. Doing so she catches the attention of the two grifters above who work her for her dough until the re-branded "M. La Valle" has lost his heart to her (“I came here to rob you, but unfortunately I fell in love with you”), forfeited his lover-in-larceny (“What has she got that I haven't got?”), and blown his cover (“It could have been glorious but [for] that terrible policeman.”)


The preacher has written, (Eccl. 9:7) “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.” When Monescu wines and dines Lily, the waiter suggests, “I would start with cocktails.” He tells the waiter he wants the moon in the sky to be reflected by the champagne in their glasses. Later when managing the affairs of the affable Colet, he will admonish her not to eat potatoes, but she will indulge her­self anyway. Colet attends The Major (Charles Ruggles)'s dinner party.

(Eccl. 9:8) “Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.” Mme Colet spends extravagantly on a hand­bag accessory. Lily insists on having the sea pearl necklace to grace her neck. The Major invites Filiba to his party if he has a dinner jacket. Lily advises Colet to embrace her man with gloves on. One wears the right clothes for the occasion. M. La Valle discusses at length with Mme Colet the preferred color of her lip­stick (scarlet.) Got to mind the makeup, too.

(Eccl. 9:9) “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.” The crook and the thief were made for each other and they deserve their life together.

(Eccl. 9:10) “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”M. La Valle reasons thus: “You have to be in the Social Register to keep out of jail. But when a man starts at the bottom and works his way up, a self-made crook, then you say, ‘Call the police!’” When Lily asks for a raise on account of having to care for her orphaned brother (“You see, mother is dead”), Colet replies, “Yes, that's the trouble with mothers. First, you get to like them, and then they die.” But doesn't everybody?

Production Values

This gem of a film, “Trouble in Paradise” (1932) was directed by Ernst Lubitsch. They say he had "the Lubitsch touch", the je ne sais quoi that sets his films apart. It was based on Hungarian play­wright Laszlo Aladar's stage play, ‘The Honest Finder’. The adaptation credit belongs to Grover Jones, the screen­play written by Samson Raphael­son. It stars Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins as con artists turned lovers. What a match it was! Kay Frances anchored the lead support role but despite her superb acting she was, in my opinion, miscast as the aristocratic love interest of an ardent crook. I don't see what he saw in her. The cast is rounded out by a flustered Edward Everett Horton & bewildered Charlie Ruggles as Mme Colet's suitors; an unctuous Robert Greig as her butler; and patriarchal Sir C. Aubrey Smith as the vigilant chair­man of Colet's corporate board of directors.

This movie came out a couple years before the Hays Code went into effect, so it could get away with being racy and naughty. The bickering of the main couple seeds the later development of the screw­ball comedy genre where sexual energy gets sublimated into bickering. The film is well scripted; it's got class, good acting, and interesting costumes & set designs. It does a lot with little and sets an historical bench­mark as well.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This was a delightful movie to see and somehow it avoids seeming dated. There's kind of a wry humor throughout and interesting characters.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Not rated, pre-code. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.