An office clerk loves entering contests in the hopes of someday winning a fortune and marrying the girl he loves. His latest attempt is the Maxford House Coffee Slogan Contest. As a joke, ... See full summary »
Gerry and Tom Jeffers are finding married life hard. Tom is an inventor/ architect and there is little money for them to live on. They are about to be thrown out of their apartment when Gerry meets rich businessman being shown around as a prospective tenant. He gives Gerry $700 to start life afresh but Tom refuses to believe her story and they quarrel. Gerry decides the marriage is over and heads to Palm Beach for a quick divorce but Tom has plans to stop her. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sturges' Best: Funny, Sophisticated & Well-Studied by Billy Wilder
When commenting on a film as brilliantly constructed and deeply entertaining as The Palm Beach Story, it's hard to know just where to start.
Do you tip your hat to the uniformly wonderful performers?
Do you pay tribute to the bizarre and hilarious conversations held by the Weenie King (Robert Dudley), an incidental character who manages to be a lot more than a mere plot contrivance?
Do you mention the fact that the film was clearly an influence upon the (slightly superior) screwball classic Some Like It Hot?
Nope. You just say, Preston Sturges was a genius and this is his best film.
Gerry Jeffers (Claudette Colbert) has decided that she needs to divorce her husband Tom (Sturges regular Joel McCrea). Why? We're not quite sure. Perhaps she's looking for thrills, perhaps she simply wants a partner who can pay the rent and perhaps she's truly come to believe that she no longer loves him. No matter. Her mind is made up and there's nothing Tom can do about it. Try as he might, Gerry slips through his fingers and ends up on a train to Palm Beach, the divorce capital of the world.
Echoes of Some Like first appear on the train ride when Gerry finds herself unable to sleep do to the racket being caused by The Ale and Quail Club. It's bad enough when they start shooting out windows, and what comes next... let's just say that it's a lot funnier than it would be if it happened in real life.
Still, Gerry makes it to Palm Beach, in the company of nutty millionaire John D. Hackensacker (Rudy Vallee). Things only get really out of hand once Tom arrives and becomes pegged as a bachelor, Captain McGlew. And spoil more of the plot for you I will not.
Sturges was capable of operating in many modes: responsible and patriotic (Sullivan's Travels) and outrageously madcap (The Miracle of Morgan's Creek) are two that come to mind. But Palm Beach shares its elegance, wit and reserve with The Lady Eve, in which con artist Barbara Stanwyck sets her sights on absent-minded professor Henry Fonda. (Even the mistaken identity plot is similar upon examination).
Between the two, Eve may end on a slightly more graceful note, but Beach seems to be made with a bit more... well, experience. Sturges seems at his most relaxed throughout the film and it does a world of good. (The story is bogged down only by brief moments of racism early on). And leaving, it's hard not to feel sunny and refreshed.
For those in need of a vacation, I recommend a stay at Palm Beach. And the rest of you should come along as well.
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