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Trouble in Paradise  /  I Take This Woman

Trouble in Paradise
March 3, 2017 - 7:30 pm
Archive director Jan-Christopher Horak, film preservationist Scott MacQueen.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute and David Stenn

Voice of Hollywood  (1931)

Series 2, No. 3

This short, not seen by audiences since 1931, features rare footage of Jean Harlow and Bela Lugosi discussing Dracula, as well as Walter Huston performing a musical number.  It exists solely in fragmentary form.  —Jillian Borders

35mm, b/w, approx. 8 minutes.  Released by Tiffany Production, Inc.  With: Jean Harlow, Bela Lugosi, Walter Huston.

Restored in cooperation with the Library of Congress from two nitrate prints.   Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, YCM Laboratories, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., Simon Daniel Sound.  Special thanks to: Darren Nemeth, Gary Don Rhodes.

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

Trouble in Paradise  (1932)

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.  —Jan-Christopher Horak

35mm, b/w, 81 min.  Director: Ernst Lubitsch.  Production: Paramount Publix Corp.  Distribution: Paramount Publix Corp.  Based on the play A Becsuletes Megtalalo by László Aladár.  Screenwriter: Samson Raphaelson.  Adaptation: Grover Jones.  Cinematography: Victor Milner.  Art  Director: Hans Dreier.  Music: W. Franke Harling.  Cast: Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall, Charlie Ruggles.

Restored from the 35mm nitrate studio print and a 35mm acetate dupe negative.  Laboratory services by Fotokem, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., Simon Daniel Sound.  Special thanks to: Library of Congress, George Willeman, British Film Institute, Universal Pictures.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Louis B. Mayer Foundation

I Take This Woman  (1931)

No more whoopee parties for feckless Kay Dowling.  Dispatched to Wyoming by her millionaire father to avert a scandal, the Manhattan princess further compromises her reputation with cowpuncher Tom McNair.  Disowned by daddy, Kay marries her buckaroo only to be exiled to a desolate little shack on the prairie.

Based on a 1927 serial in The Saturday Evening Post, “Lost Ecstasy” by Mary Roberts Rinehart, the plot of the spoiled Eastern girl confronting rough and tumble life in the West was already an established cliché in popular fiction.  Rinehart was one of the most successful fiction writers of the 1920s, best known for her mysteries such as The Bat and Miss Pinkerton, though she wrote in many genres.  Russian émigré stage director Marion Gering made his cinema debut with I Take This Woman.  Gering's career at Paramount includes such notables as Devil and the Deep (1932), 24 Hours (1931), Thirty Day Princess (1934) and Madame Butterfly (1932).

According to studio memos, Paramount rechristened the movie I Take This Woman to “emphasize the romance rather than the western setting, and reflect more of the boy's role than the girl's.”  The boy is Gary Cooper, Paramount's stoic cowpuncher since his breakthrough role in The Virginian (1929).  The woman that he was intended to take was Nancy Carroll until the story was reshaped as a star-building vehicle for Carole Lombard.  “A few more performances like this from Carole Lombard,” said the discerning Variety, “and Paramount will have a new star on its hands.”

Who would imagine that a talkie starring Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard would go missing?  When the story rights and film elements for I Take This Woman reverted to Mary Roberts Rinehart, the author kept a 16mm print for her own pleasure and junked the 35mm camera negative.  “Lost Ecstasy” become a lost movie.  —Scott MacQueen

35mm, b/w, 72 min.  Director: Marion Gering.  Associate Director: Slavko Vorkapich.  Production: Paramount Publix Corp.  Distribution: Paramount Publix Corp.  Based on the story “Lost Ecstasy” by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  Screenwriter: Victor Lawrence.  Cinematography: Victor Milner.  Cast: Gary Cooper, Carole Lombard, Helen Ware, Lester Vail, Charles Trowbridge.

Restored from the 35mm nitrate studio print.  Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc.