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Man of the World is a 1931 film directed by Richard Wallace.

Michael Trevor (William Powell) is a former journalist now living as an ex-pat in Paris, because something happened which forced him to leave America. He is now making his living as a blackmailer. Michael and his partners Irene and Frank print their own little gossip sheet which circles among the American ex-pat community in Paris. The racket is that Michael and partners find out embarrassing secrets about American tourists. (Or in the case of Irene, they cause those secrets by being a Honey Pot.) Michael then goes to the target, and in a roundabout way threatens to publish the details of the scandal in his gossip rag. The victim always gives Michael some cash to make the embarrassing thing go away.

Enter Mary Kendall, a beautiful American socialite (Carole Lombard) in Paris to visit her rich uncle Harry. Irene, who needs a big score to keep her brother back in America out of jail, hits on an idea. Michael will seduce gullible Mary, and then extort $10K from Harry to avoid the ruin of Mary's reputation.

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Naturally, Michael falls in love with Mary for real. Irene does not like this, because she wants the ten grand, and because she's also Michael's ex-girlfriend.


Tropes:

  • Blackmail: Michael runs a racket in which he ferrets out the scandals and secrets of the American community in Paris, and threatens to publish said secrets if his targets don't pay up.
  • Downer Ending: Michael is forced to dump Mary. She's stuck in a loveless marriage with Frank. He's deported from France, and goes off to parts unknown, with Irene tagging along.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Instead it's the Arc de Triomphe in the first shot of the movie to tell the audience that the film is set in Paris.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Harry is established as a Dirty Old Man when he openly stares at the rear end of the maid as she passes by.
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  • Even Evil Has Standards: Michael is a chivalrous con artist: he doesn't target women with his scams. He even intervenes to save some matronly lady who's being targeted by a gigolo. That's why he's reluctant to go along with Irene's plan, even before he meets Mary.
  • Floating Advice Reminder: Mary's beatifically smiling head appears on one side of Michael, while Irene's floating head is spitting some unpleasant truths on Michael's other side.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Irene tells Michael that she'll turn him in. And that even if she doesn't turn him in, he can't go back to polite society because he's burnt his bridges. Eventually someone he's scammed will see him, and then he'll go to jail, and that's if the French police don't catch him. His romance with Mary is doomed.
  • In Love with the Mark: Predictably, Michael falls in love with sweet, gorgeous Mary.
  • Noodle Incident: Something happened when Michael was a newspaper editor that not only ruined his career but forced him to leave the country. Apparently he took the fall for...someone. It turned him into a cynical crook.
    Michael: That was back home, before...well, the details don't matter.
  • Romantic False Lead: Subverted. Mary says that Frank is "fine and good", but she doesn't love him. He is guileless and dull and basically a Romantic False Lead from central casting, execpt that he and Mary actually do get together at the end.
  • Title Drop: Michael says "You're a man of the world, Mr. Taylor," while explaining the blackmail situation to Harry.
  • Verbal Irony: Michael has passed himself off as an author. When he's considering turning over a new leaf, he tells Mary, "I've been thinking of rewriting my whole story."
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