Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Rudy Vallee and Claudette Colbert
THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942). Written and directed by Preston Sturges.

"Men don't get smarter as they get older, they just lose their hair."

Geri (Geraldine) Jeffers is married to an engineer, Tom (Joel McCrea), who can't seem to get a break. Geri figures that they would be better off if they divorced, and if she married someone wealthy she could get him the $100,000 he needs for his dream project, a "suspended" [!] airport. Although broke, she manages to make her way to Florida via the zany members of the "ale and quail club" and meets a man named J. D. Hackensacker (Rudy Vallee), who is fabulously rich. Tom flies down to stop Geri from getting a divorce and winds up in the clutches of J. D.'s man-hungry sister, the Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor), who thinks he's Geri's brother... The Palm Beach Story is a delightful comedy with fine performances and some hilarious dialogue. Colbert and Astor come off best, and McCrea and Vallee are quite good although they are not especially gifted comic actors. Robert Dudley almost steals the show as a sweet old man who wants to rent the Jeffers' apartment and winds up giving Geri money for the back rent. There's a riotous scene when the Ale and Quail Club shoot up the club car with Fred "Snowflake" Toones [Seventeen] comical as the nervous and then horrified bartender. Other notables in the cast include William Demarest, Mantan Moreland (dining club waiter); Franklin Pangborn [The Bank Dick] as an apartment manager; and Sig Arno as Toto, the princess' latest, unintelligible boyfriend. This is a charming and very funny movie. You may be confused by the frenetic credit sequence, in which there seems to be two Claudette Colberts, but all is explained (more or less) at the conclusion.  Sturges also wrote and directed Unfaithfully Yours, which is vastly inferior to this.

Verdict: A classic comedy. ***1/2.

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