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Film / Laughter in Paradise

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Laughter in Paradise is a British comedy film released in 1951. The film stars Alastair Sim, Fay Compton, George Cole and Guy Middleton. The film also includes an early appearance of Audrey Hepburn. The film was remade as Some Will, Some Won't (1970).

The will of well-known practical joker Henry Russell leaves a fortune of £50,000 on his death to each of his four surviving relatives, all unmarried, provided they first perform prescribed tasks that are completely contrary to their natures.

Law-abiding retired army officer Deniston Russell, who writes lurid crime novels under several fictional names, has within a week to get himself arrested and jailed for exactly 28 days. Difficult, snobbish Agnes Russell has to find employment as a domestic servant in a middle-class home, again within a week, and keep her position for a month. Simon Russell, a penniless womanising con man, has to marry the first single woman he speaks to. Timid Herbert Russell has to hold up the bank manager he works for in his office, using a mask and a toy pistol, and obtain the bank keys for two minutes.


Tropes in Laughter in Paradise:

  • Accidental Hero: Timid bank clerk Herbert Russell has to hold up his bank manager with a toy pistol while wearing a mask. When he finally works up the courage to do so, he storms into the office yelling "Reach for the sky!", and startles two real hold-up men into dropping their guns. A later radio interview reveals that he is being rewarded by being promoted to branch manager.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': Captain Russell has to spend 28 days in jail in order to inherit £50,000. He makes numerous attempts to get arrested for minor offences and fails in all of them. For example, he very obviously shoplifts only for a pickpocket to steal the loot off him seconds before he's nabbed by the store detectives.
  • The Casanova: Simon Russell is a womanizing cad with a string of girlfriends across London. He starts worrying that one or more of them will try to marry him once word of his inheritance gets out.
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  • Courtroom Antic: Deniston's secretary Sheila—who is secretly in love with him—insists on being a witness at his trial. Her passionate defence of him contributes almost nothing to the case (save to prove that he does actually have an occupation), and confuses and frustrates the magistrate no end.
  • Die Laughing: The film opens with notorious practical joker Henry Russell on his deathbed. He stages one last practical joke—setting fire to his nurse's newspaper while she is reading it—starts laughing and then keels over.
  • Embarrassing Cover-Up: Dennison visits Simon to ask permission to burgle his flat. Simon refuses, because he is hoping to score with Lucille that night. As Lucille arrives, Simon hurries Dennison out. When Lucille asks who he was talking to, Simon says Dennison is an old crook who used to forge petrol coupons during the war and has now fallen on hard times and keeps hitting him up for cash.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: When the truth about Henry's will is revealed, all four heirs and the solicitor break out laughing.
  • Exact Words: When Helen and her father mistakenly assume that Captain Russell is undertaking a secret mission for the government, he decides not to disabuse them of the notion. He very carefully answers all of their questions in such a way that it sounds like he is a secret agent, when, in fact, he is going to jail for a month, but without actually lying. For example, he tells them that the government will be paying all of his expenses while he is away, and carefully using the word 'away' rather than 'overseas' or 'abroad'.
  • Extreme Doormat: Herbert Russell is a timid bank clerk who kowtows to everyone, and is too scared to ask out the girl he likes. His On One Condition in Henry's will is designed to help him grow a backbone.
  • Faking Engine Trouble: Lucille pretends to have broken down so Simon will stop to help her as part of her plan to seduce him.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Captain Russell very obviously shoplifts several items in an attempt to get arrested. He succeeds, but then discovers he Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin'.
  • Get into Jail Free: Captain Russell has to get himself arrested and jailed for 28 days in order to inherit £50,000 from his cousin Henry's estate. Following a prolonged Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin' sequence where he repeatedly attempts to get arrested and fails, he is finally arrested when he breaks a shop window. However, once in court, the magistrate is prepared to let him go because of his previous good character. Russell resorts to insulting the magistrate until he sentences him to 28 days for contempt of court.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Simon invites Lucille to blow off her brother and instead spend the afternoon with him on his boat, she says she will have to say no. There is then a cut to her sunning herself on the deck of the boat.
  • Handsome Lech: The caddish Simon Russell is handsome in a polished, roguish fashion. He is also quite successful with the ladies, having a black book full of girlfriends.
  • Hypochondria: Mr. Webb is a terrible hypochondriac who plays the role of a bedridden invalid and makes life hell for his longsuffering daughter and any staff she manages to employ. Agnes, despite the fact she desperately needs to keep the job, is finally driven to stand up to him, with surprising results.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: Simon Russell's first appearance has him playing poker with a group of his cronies. One of his friends lays down four kings, only for Simon to lay down four aces. Simon does comment that he had the decency not to raise.
  • Mistaken for Spies: Although not in the usual fashion. Captain Russell is attempting to explain to his fiancee and her father that he needs to postpone the wedding, without telling them it is because he is planning to be arrested and sent to jail for 28 days (It Makes Sense in Context). However, his evasive explanations cause them to think that he is undertaking a secret mission on behalf of the government. Deciding to roll with it, he gives answers that are technically accurate (such as saying the government will be paying his expenses while he is away), but imply that he is a secret agent.
  • Mock Millionaire: Simon Russell lives the life of a playboy, but is really on his uppers.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Agnes Russell is a terror to her domestic staff. Her On One Condition requires to be employed as a maid in a middle-class household for one month.
  • On One Condition: Wealthy, well-known practical joker Henry Russell dies, leaving considerable sums of money to four relatives...provided they commit acts completely contrary to their natures. A law-abider has to get himself arrested and jailed for 28 days, a snob has to find work as a maid and keep her job long enough to qualify, a womanizing cad has to marry the first single woman he meets, and a meek and submissive coward has to hold up the bank where he works with a toy pistol. All of them except Agnes fulfilled their respective conditions but learned Henry Russell wasn't so wealthy and just hoped their experiences from this would change them for the better.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: Captain Russell shoplifts several strings of pearls in an attempt to get arrested. As he is headed for the door, he is accosted by a pair of pickpockets: one of whom bumps into him and apologises profusely while the other picks his pocket. Captain Russell is nabbed by the store detectives who search him but cannot find the pearls. When Captain Russell checks his own pockets, he discovers that the pickpockets have stolen not only the pearls, but also his wallet.
  • The Prankster: The film begins with the death of notorious practical joker Henry Russell. His perverse sense of humour lingers after his death, with his will requiring his heirs to undertake some exceedingly odd actions to receive their inheritance. His will also turns out to be his last great joke, as he was broke and had nothing to leave them.
  • Right Behind Me: Herbert is trying to clean up the mess he and Steward made while scuffling in Mr. Wagstaff's office. Steward is worried that Wagstaff might arrive, and Herbert replies "Hang Mr. Wagstaff!" and starts to make a few other choice comments. He reaches round behind him to pull Steward over to help, only to find that the leg he has grasped is that of Mr. Wagstaff who had entered the office mid-rant.
  • Servile Snarker: Simon's butler Benson is under no illusions about what kind of man his employer is, and has a fine line in subtle putdowns. With his wages several months in arrears, he has cause for his low opinion of Simon and he ultimately decides to run a con on his boss.
  • She's Got Legs: The first thing Handsome Lech Simon Russell notices about Lucille Grayson is her legs when she has her head under the bonnet of her car.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Captain Russell is attempting to explain to his fiancée and her father that he needs to postpone the wedding for a month. However, the conditions of his cousin's will forbid from explaining why. His evasive answers give his fiancée and her father the impression that he has to go abroad to undertake a secret mission for the government. Russell decides to roll with it. This comes back to bite him when his fiancée runs into him several days later, still in London, and seemingly attempting to rob a jewellery store.
  • That Came Out Wrong: During her spirited defence of Captain Russell in the courtroom, Shelia declares "This is bloody justice!"; earning her a shocked look from the magistrate. She then holds up one of Russell's novels—a western titled Bloody Justice—that she was referring to in order to prove he had an occupation.