If you want to steal from wealthy people, you have to get close to wealthy people. And what’s the best way to get close to wealthy people? Pretend to be a fellow wealthy person! That’s just what Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) does when he goes to Venice. While pretending to be a Baron, he steals from plenty of prominent guests, including a countess named Lily (Miriam Hopkins). Only Lily isn’t really a countess, she’s also a thief so she recognizes what Gaston is really there for. He had her pegged, too, after she swiped his wallet. The two of them are so impressed with each other’s thieving skills that they fall madly in love with each other on the spot.
Lily and Gaston are quite the crooks and they steal their way across Europe. While in Paris, they steal a diamond-studded handbag belonging to Mariette Colet (Kay Francis), the owner of a very famous perfume company. But when Mariette puts out an ad offering a 20,000 Franc reward for the bag’s return, they realize they’d make more by turning it in than by selling it and Gaston goes to turn it in. But when Gaston gets there and realizes that Mariette is awfully careless with her money, he convinces her to hire him as her secretary, planning to embezzle money from her company. The plan works and Lily even gets hired on as Gaston’s assistant. The only thing that doesn’t go according to plan is that Gaston and Mariette fall in love with each other.
Eventually, Mariette starts bringing Gaston along with her to social gatherings, but some of Mariette’s wealthy friends recognize Gaston. Plus people in the company are starting to suspect that Gaston has been stealing money for them. Even though her friends warn her about him, Mariette doesn’t want to give up on Gaston. Meanwhile, Gaston and Lily are planning to skip town, but Gaston is torn between staying with Mariette or leaving with Lily. The last thing they had planned to steal was 100,000 Francs from her safe, but before they leave, Gaston decides to come clean to Mariette about who he is and what he was really there to do. Lily interrupts his confession to announce that she is the one who has stolen the 100,000 Francs and that Mariette is welcome to have Gaston for that price and leaves Gaston to decide who he wants to be with.
I positively adore Trouble in Paradise. It’s sharp, witty, got plenty of lavish sets, and a top-notch cast. There’s no going wrong with Miriam Hopkins in an Ernst Lubitsch comedy, but when you add in Kay Francis and Herbert Marshall, plus Charlie Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton in some supporting roles, you’ve got cinematic gold. I just love everything about it. Trouble in Paradise is total pre-code and pure Ernst Lubitsch.