Trouble in Paradise

Aesthetics Over Morality in Trouble in Paradise

Ernst Lubitsch's sparkling and elegant comedy, Trouble in Paradise, centers around three characters: a male thief, a female thief, and a wealthy widow. The bare bones of the characters suggest predation and immorality, but the storytelling subverts the more obvious outcome into a comedy of manners, morals, and romance, with a complete snubbing of several established moral and social conventions. In fact, two of the main tenets of most Hollywood movies, the triumph of love and the importance of honesty, are turned on their heads; their very opposites are showcased. It is a surprising and very un-Hollywood type of 1930s film, and very much a product of its studio, Paramount. Ernst Lubitsch, its director, was allowed to espouse truly upper class and even criminal sets of morals, within a sophisticated and polished package.

As probably best typified by Lubitsch, whose sly, stylish comedies contrasted so vividly with Capra's open, homespun films, Paramount pictures were decidedly nonegalitarian. They didn't ennoble the audience; they whisked them away to a world of sheen and sex where people spoke in innuendo, acted with abandon, and doubted the rewards of virtue (Gabler 204).

In contrast with other films of its era, such...

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