A Thief in Paradise (1925)


    Doris Kenyon ............ Helen Saville

    Ronald Colman .......... Maurice Blake

    Aileen Pringle ............. Rosa Carmino

    Claude Gillingwater ..... Noel Jardine

    Alec B. Francis ........... Bishop Saville

    John Patrick ............... Ned Whalen

    Charles Yourée ........... Philip Jardine


Producer: Samuel Goldwyn

Director: George Fitzmaurice

Screenplay: Frances Marion from the novel

                     “The Worldlings” by

                       Leonard Merrick

Release dates and timing:

Los Angeles,Alhambra, January 24,1925

New York,The Strand, January 25, 1925

7,355 feet (81min,45 sec),Variety :71 min

Alternate Titles

Ein Dieb im Paradies, Germany

La Maison de L’Homme Mort, France

Een Dief in’t Paradijs, Netherlands

A Boldogság Tolvaja, Hungary

This film must be considered lost. A trailer is still extant though. The trailer is included on a DVD containing silent trailers. E-mail me for details!

Movie stills can be found here.

Synopsis (translated from the German movie programme “IFK” )

Scans of the original article (including photos) are located here

On the island of lost souls, far away in a tropical ocean, Philip Jardine and Maurice Blake toil as pearl-fishers. Both of them have travellede around the world leading the life of an adventurer. Philip Jardine is a wealthy heir. In his early youth though he has left his home and broken any connections with his parents. The beautiful Rosa Carmino has been following him, but less because of het love than out of calculation that he- the heir of a million dollars-might still one day claim his heritage.

Maurice Blake and Jardine fight fiercely over a very precious pearl. Philip tries to tear it away from Maurice, Philip draws a knife. They both fall into the water, where they continue fighting. Philip Jardine is severely wounded and a shark attack ends his life. Maurice only just manages to reach the shore. In the meantime a letter has arrived for Philip Jardine containing $ 500 and a note telling him that he will lose his heritage if he doesn't return at once. At this point Rosa talks Maurice Blake into assuming Philip's identity and collecting the heritage for themselves.

At the castle of the elder Jardine Maurice appears.He manages to get away with posing as his son. He plays his part so well that he conquers everybody's heart. Even that of the beautiful Helen Saville, whose father happens to be the best friend of the elder Jardine. The fathers expect them to get engaged but Maurice cannot forget that he is an imposter and cannot bring himself to marry Helen under these circumstances.
In the meantime Rosa is living a luxurious life thanks to Maurice's valuable donations. She wants to get hold of Maurice's heart as well though and threatens to expose him if he doesn't love her. But Maurice declines her advances and believes that by paying a huge amount of money he will finally get his peace from her.

Maurice is no longer able to resist his supposed father's demands to marry Helen, thus they get engaged. During the ensuuing engagement celebration the young Ned Whalen promises to present a special attraction for the guests' entertainment. Rosa agrees to show a dance that no one has ever seen before. This dance, performed by herself, takes place at the bottom of the sea. It's the struggle between two men for the queen of pearls. Both rivals in love get into a deadly fight and one gets stabbed. Maurice gazes at this performance while being seated at the table celebrating his betrothal. He feels like the earth has been removed from under his feet. He sees his happiness vanish forever.-

The wedding has taken place- the young couple is on its own but Maurice is haunted by his bad conscience and he is not able to touch his young wife. Restlessly struggling with his thoughts he paces to and fro in the next room. Rosa has followed the young couple. She encounters Helen and posese as Maurice's former and present mistress. Appalled Helen flees her young husband and returns to her father. At this moment Maurice decides to confess evreything. He rushes to his wife and tells her and the elder Jardine of Philip's death, that he is an imposter and that Rosa has never been his lover. Then he takes out a revolver and shoots himself into the breast. Thus his deception is revenged upon him.

Destiny though has other plans for the young couple. The shot wasn't fatal. After a long reconvalescence Maurice's health is restored and he finds happiness in his young marriage, the peace of which won't get disturbed any more, because Rosa has left the country.

This is the best contemporary synopsis I’ve been able to obtain and it tells more about the movie than in the publications on Ronald Colman’s movies that I’ve read so far. One thing is not mentioned though ,excerpts of which can be watched on the still extant trailer (if  anybody is interested in buying a copy of a DVD containing this trailer, please e-mail me and I will tell you,where to get it). It’s a polo game between blondes and brunettes in bathing-suits. This is one of the scenes highlighted in the trailer and obviously was designed to draw audiences. This and the obvious splendour used for the setting and dresses ,as can be seen on the stills that are still around, may suggest that the story was merely used to show off stylish settings and the supposed finery of the rich. But having read the novel The Worldlings by Leonard Merrick I believe there could have been another reason for this almost slightly overdone depiction of luxurious life of the rich. Maurice Blake is portrayed by Merrick as a person who has been born into riches and whose father lost his fortune so he is struggling to get back into the upper class. As every attempt fails he falls for the scheme represented in the movie. But his desired better off surroundings do prove to be not to his satisfaction, he comes to realize the emptiness and shallowness of just living to spend a fortune. Maybe Fitzmaurice wanted to give a hint at this underlying theme of the original novel.

Another thing that may strike as being awkward is the somehow strange happy ending of the movie, why let Blake commit suicide and then save him by some wondrous twist? The answer lies also in the novel for this ending somehow mirrors its ending but reflects the needs of a silent movie, i. e. what it is able to depict within its limitations. The suicide is attempt as final device to prove his love for Helen in order to set her free of the marriage bonds to an impostor is also part of the novel’s denouement. Blake is planning a fatal accident and sets out to carry out his plan step by step. This all happens as an inner thought though, which would have been hard to picture in a film. So I guess this ending would be true to the original.

This movie is certainly among the most desired to be retrieved by me. If anybody knows of an extant copy, please tell me!