director Preston Sturges
I watch a ridiculous amount of movies. Well, maybe not as ridiculous an amount as some people I follow on Letterboxd, but I have 2 kids and a full-time job and other interests as well. And I try to write about each one that is a feature film.
This excuse is made in reference to the many types of films I enjoy and explore and how I haven’t watched a Preston Sturges film in 7 years. Back in 2008, I watched the terrific Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and the lesser but still pretty great The Lady Eve (also 1941) and then…seven years of lots of other stuff. Heck, the last film I just watched was the first Federico Fellini film I’d seen in the same interim. It’s a bit of a thing in my film-watching.
The Palm Beach Story stars Joel McCrea (who was great in Sullivan’s Travels) and Claudette Colbert, one of the Screwball Comedy’s best leading comediennes. It fits nicely into the subset of the Screwball Comedy which deal with a married man and wife whose marriage is up for inspection, playing heck with the institution while usually winding up right back in the arms of one another in the end. In this case, Colbert and McCrea are unhappy in their nearing poverty. He’s never made it big with his crazy innovative ideas and she is a woman who likes to live well and won’t do for living cheap and meager and openly expresses it.
In fact, the story opens as they are about to be put on the street, saved by a strange little rich guy, only giving over for Colbert to realize her best bet is a quick divorce and to land a new shiny rich husband. She loves McCrea and wants to do well by him by getting whoever her new hubby will be to help him out with his crazy plan for a suspended airport above a major city. She jumps a train full of rich drunks with guns for Palm Beach, Florida and the wackiness ensues.
She meets, of all people, Rudy Vallee, the squarest of squares, a nearly infinitely rich guy with seriously lacking social skills. And while she woos him, McCrea swings down to try to win her back. I won’t ruin it for you in going over the ins and outs of the plot or its most bizarre and hilarious ending but I will say it’s great stuff.
McCrea plays a bit of a stiff compared to Colbert who really gets the best lines and gags and moments. Mary Astor has a small but pretty funny role as Vallee’s sister.
All I can say is it’s time to line up more Preston Sturges in my queue.