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Review: Trouble in Paradise (1932)

During the period when F. Scott Fitzgerald was working in Hollywood, he was visited once by a fledgling writer who begged Fitzgerald to teach him the ropes of writing a good script. The young man’s first lesson was to compose a scene which involves only three characters; three different coloured pens were assigned to write the lines, with each colour representing one of the three characters. Enraged by the impression that Fitzgerald was mocking his inexperience, the young writer asserted aloud his qualification for the job and asked for a more constructive assignment. Fitzgerald’s response was one of even greater rage: the young writer was summarily dismissed on the ground of his irreverence for, what Fitzgerald considered, the rudiments of screenwriting.
The virtue of Fitzgerald’s little exercise finds its most manifest justification in Ernst Lubitsch’s films, which regularly explore, often in a tone of frivolity or thinly-disguised sarcasm, the conflicts and the absurd dynamic of the…