by Marie Wilson

Champagne & Imperfection

“Trouble in Paradise” is a Lubitsch rom-com made in pre-code Hollywood that drips with sexual innuendo & gorgeous jewelry. Herbert Marshall plays a charming thief & Kay Francis is the rich & alluring lady he intends to rob.

Marshall lost part of a leg in WW1. He had a wooden replacement & never walked much in his pictures. Francis couldn’t say her “r”s, so in her movies she avoided words with that letter (with help from screenwriters). In “Trouble in Paradise” she floats elegantly around all her dialogue with the exception of “ruined reputation”. Marshall delivers his lines with characteristic elan whilst lounging about the glorious Art Deco set. This was a Hollywood of perfect men and flawless women.

Those with “afflictions” had to hide them. There were a few exceptions: Lionel Barrymore was in a wheelchair in real life & it worked for his many cinematic character roles (e.g. Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”); Sammy Davis Jr. had a glass eye but it seemed to add to his elfin charm; Jack Elam had “wide eyes”, meaning the iris in his left eye was skewed to the outside, giving him a wacko badass look, perfect for the many villains he played.

And then there was Harold Russell. Russell lost both his hands while serving in the army during WW2. He was not an actor but got cast to play the young war vet in “The Best Years of our Lives” (1946) then won two Oscars for his moving & believable portrait.

As for “Trouble in Paradise”, by 1935 the Production Code was being enforced, & TiP was considered much too racy for reissue. It was not seen again until 1968, the same year Kay Francis died. It’s interesting to note that she left the bulk of her million-dollar estate to an organization that trains guide dogs for the blind.

Let Me Know What You Think!