Trouble in Paradise, 1932
Dir: Ernst Lubitsch
If you think about all the ridiculously terrible rom-coms that come out of Hollywood now, you often wonder how the genre came to such prominence, and if it wasn't always filled with fluff. Well, films like The Killers (2010) and every other "criminal couple" movie owe a debt to Trouble in Paradise, though they'd never be able to hold a candle to it. Elliptical in structure and tied to witty romance with suggestive pre-code banter, this film could demolish anything today and definitely stands above all of the screwball comedies that it helped to inspire later in the decade.
Romancing both Miriam Hopkins and Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall is the epitome of handsome rakishness, playing a master jewel thief who schemes with his lover (Hopkins) to swindle perfume heiress Francis, falling in love with the sexually aggressive proprietress instead.
Lubitsch’s revered style is surprisingly fluid for a film of the early 30’s, and his collaboration with playwright Samson Raphaelson, his most frequent partner, is filled with the kind of innuendo that would be virtually impossible to get away within the coming code era. Luckily for us, that makes a lot of the comedy very fresh and almost seemingly modern. But most of all it's just funny, and never wacky. Lubitsch was far too sophisticated for that.