Friday, September 12, 2008

Kay Francis

Delightful & Sophisticated!, 1 August 2002
Author: sabrina1396 from Harlem, NY (USA)

First of all, let me say that this film is as close to perfection as one can get---look at the "throw away gags", the play with words, the wardrobe (Miriam Hopkins stole the show; especially in the Opera scene when she comes out of the "Parlour des femmes" & asks her "Sugar Daddy" for some "francs" to give to the ladies room attendant---that black dress was haute couture at its best!), the gait of the actors, the snappy dialogue. They all look so-o sophisticated & worldly.


It took me 5 years to get this film & it was worth every minute! This is MY FAVORITE film!

Ed here: Turner Classic ran several Kay Francis pictures yesterday. The only one I caught was Trouble in Paradise and I'm glad I did. It is flat out a masterpiece. Ernst Lubitch who directed this and several classics including Ninotchka said that this was his favorite film.

The picture wasn't much seen once the Breen office held sway in Hwood. Several of the people in it are merry adulterers and two of the three principals are thieves.

One surprise, for me if nobody else, was learning that Herbert Marshall wasn't a corpse after all. I'd never seen a performance of his that didn't need to be re-animated. Here he's light, deft, engaging. I think Sabrina, author of the review above is right that Miriam Hopkins probably steals the show. Damn was she cute and damn she wore clothes well and (as with Elaine in Seinfeld) her steely nerves dominate the men in the film. And did I mention she was cute? There are a couple of scenes where she dons these large eyeglasses and you get fixated on her face. You want to freeze frame it. And with that mop of blonde hair she's very sexy.

But Kay Francis fascinated me. There is something in her languid self-conscious style that gently mocks the melodrama of the love scenes and gives the humorous scenes a subtle sexuality. She was very much of the theater but used those particular skills to provide a center for all the festivities. Even when she's off camera her presence is felt. I wouldn't say that she was beautiful exactly but she was so elegant beauty became beside the point. You wait for her to come back.

As for the story, Marshall and Miriam Hopkins are thieves trying to defraud Kay Franics. I'm not kidding when I say the plot has as many twists as a comic caper by Don Westlake. The pacing is extraordinary. Lubitch gives us a long scene and then tops it with a jab of screwball comedy. I'd bet that Billy Wilder considered this one of his essential films. Any number of Wilder films can be felt in the picture.


Fred Blosser said...

Miriam Hopkins was a babe. Great in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (the Frederic March version) and Virginia City. I DVR'd Trouble last night, haven't watched it yet.

Craig Clarke said...

Hi Ed, I'm glad you found Trouble in Paradise. It has been my favorite film since I caught it back in the good old days of American Movie Classics (i.e., the Bob Dorian era). It's got a little bit of everything: class, comedy, romance, and crime. The scene where you find the two lovebirds have been picking each other's pockets is priceless.

And Kay Francis has slowly become my favorite actress (my blog Colet and Company has reviews of some other Francis films). She's not pretty, exactly, but as you say, she's magnetic and you feel her even when she's offscreen. Her output was uneven, but there are some gems to be discovered on TCM this month.