The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 1942)
A couple in financial trouble decides to split apart so that the wife (Claudette Colbert) could find a wealthy new husband that could help her ex-husband (Joel McCrea) to get his company take off and make a profit.
This other comedy by Preston Sturges, one of the most remarkable writer-director of his time, strikes again with a fast paced frantic movie about love, money, and the physics of an old couple. Hilarious at times and just plain funny at other, The Palm Beach Story delivers as one of the greatest comedies of all time. Listed in AFI’s 100 Laughs list and admired as one of the top five movies of his entire filmography. It is also 100% fresh on the film rating system of Rotten Tomatoes.
In fact, it feels very fresh and original to watch a film made in 1942 treating this kind of subject. However, just as it also seems like a story that has been told to us hundreds of times. So why is it regarded with such esteem? Because it has been a major influence on Romantic Comedies for decades and directors like Woody Allen and Rob Reiner sure have watched it plenty of times.
The plot and the dialogues are fast and witty and it is one of the many great aspects of Sturges comedies. Just like Howard Hawks did with his screwball masterpieces of Bringin’ Up Baby and His Girl Friday, Preston Sturges made a niche in intelligent comedies. Plus the cast of Joel McCrea, Claudette Colbert, Mary Astor, and Rudy Vallée is amazing and well chosen. McCrea has enough seriousness to balance Colbert’s easiness on the screen. It is not an actress I’ve been really keen but she manage to be versatile and not one sided. As a supporting actress, Mary Astor is beautiful and her cast in this role is perfect. Vallée might be the wild card here but he managed to get his act together and play a decent part as a rich benefactor.
It is impossible for me to not mention that I planned a summer retrospective of Sturges’ films earlier this year and that I finally never got to watch even one film from the director. I even contacted the director’s son for some information. So this fall I’m doing some catch up on films that I needed to watch at least for my quest of seeing the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time from They Shoot Pictures Don’t They? Maybe later I’ll get to the director’s entire filmography and put it together as a retrospective.