The Palm Beach Story

Critics Consensus

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97%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 29

82%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,923
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Movie Info

As for the opening reels, the principal motivating factor is money. After a deliberately confusing pre-credit sequence (not explained until the film's punch line), Tom Jeffers (Joel McCrea) and Gerry Jeffers (Claudette Colbert) are married. "And so they lived happily ever after," exults a title card, "...or did they?" Well, they didn't. After five years of marriage, Tom hasn't raised a dime with his pie-in-the-sky inventions. Using the sort of logic common to Sturges heroines, Gerry decides that the only way to help her husband is to divorce him, marry a wealthy man, and use the second husband's money to finance Tom's schemes. Borrowing money from a generous self-made business mogul known only as the Wienie King (Robert Dudley), Gerry boards a train to Palm Beach, FL, where all the rich folk go. En route, she is "adopted" by the Ale & Quail Club, a group of perpetually drunken millionaires whose idea of a good time is to shoot their rifles at everything that moves (among the club members are such Sturges regulars as William Demarest, Robert Warwick, Jimmy Conlin, Robert Greig, Jack Norton, and Dewey Robinson). Taking refuge from this rowdy crew, Gerry makes the acquaintance of likeable stuffed shirt John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee), who happens to be one of the wealthiest men in the Western Hemisphere. While Gerry spoons with Hackensacker in Palm Beach, the confused Tom (remember him?) dallies with Hackensacker's man-crazy sister, Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor). How all this straightens itself out is better seen than described, which is pretty much the case whenever one discusses Sturges' singular work, and The Palm Beach Story is vintage Sturges with one side-splitting sequence after another. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Joel McCrea
as Tom Jeffers
Claudette Colbert
as Gerry Jeffers
Rudy Vallee
as J.D. Hackensacker III
Mary Astor
as Princess Centimillia
Robert Warwick
as Mr. Hinch
Torben Meyer
as Dr. Kluck
Jimmy Conlin
as Mr. Asweld
Victor Potel
as Mr. McKeewie
William Demarest
as Members of Ale and Quail Club
Jack Norton
as Members of Ale and Quail Club
Robert Greig
as Members of Ale and Quail Club
Roscoe Ates
as Members of Ale and Quail Club
Dewey Robinson
as Members of Ale and Quail Club
Chester Conklin
as Members of Ale and Quail Club
Sheldon Jett
as Members of Ale and Quail Club
Robert Dudley
as Wienie King
Arthur Hoyt
as Pullman Conductor
Alan Bridge
as Conductor
Frank Moran
as Brakeman
Harry Rosenthal
as Orchestra Leader
Esther Howard
as Wife of Wienie King
Howard Mitchell
as Man in Apartment
Harry Hayden
as Prospect
Al Bridge
as Conductor
Monte Blue
as Doorman
Esther Michelson
as Near-sighted woman
Edward McNamara
as Officer in Penn Station
Harry Tyler
as Gateman at Penn Station
Mantan Moreland
as Waiter in Diner
Keith Richards (II)
as Shoe Salesman
Frank Faylen
as Taxi driver
Byron Foulger
as Jewelry salesman
Max Wagner
as Rough-looking comic
Wilson Benge
as Steward
John Holland
as Best man
Julius Tannen
as Proprietor of Store
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Critic Reviews for The Palm Beach Story

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (28) | Rotten (1)

  • In many ways this screwball comedy is a precursor to Some Like It Hot, but with a silkier wit and some gorgeous fashions.

    Jan 28, 2016 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • This might not be the funniest film of Sturges' brilliant '40s heyday ("The Miracle of Morgan's Creek"), or the most subversively romantic ("The Lady Eve"), or the best made ("Sullivan's Travels"), but it's definitely a censor-baiting treat.

    Apr 11, 2015 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • This Prestton Sturges production is packed with delightful absurdities.

    Nov 13, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Rudy Vallee turns in his best performance as a gentle, puny millionaire named Hackensacker in this brilliant, simultaneously tender and scalding 1942 screwball comedy by Preston Sturges.

    Feb 9, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Hilarious, irresistible, impeccably cast.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It should have been a breathless comedy. But only the actors are breathless -- and that from talking so much.

    May 20, 2003 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Palm Beach Story

  • May 10, 2019
    A trifle of a film, a light confectionary, but exquisitely prepared by writer/director Preston Sturges, concerns the misadventures of a married couple (Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert) when the wife decides to positively affect her husband's failing career by divorcing him, and marrying some rich guy, any rich guy. Yes, wacky (as rich old guys just walk into a scene, hand out wads of cash and then disappear again!), but nonetheless charming. And as well-rounded a piece of work as you are like to see.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 29, 2012
    Written and directed by Preston Sturges ("Sullivan's Travels", "The Lady Eve"), The Palm Beach Story once again shows his knack for wittiness and light-hearted cynicism when it comes to conniving females. This time it's Claudette Colbert who uses her feminine wiles to manipulate wealthy men into doing her bidding. Her husband (Joel McCrea) doesn't want to let her go, but she's decided to leave him for the noble cause of letting him live within his means. This means she'll be free to pursue wealthy old men and live the kind of lifestyle she feels she's meant to live, but this of course is only a lucky coincidence for them both. Even with her self-sacrifice, her husband would rather keep ahold of her, and follows her down to Palm Springs where she's latched onto a wealthy poindexter by the name of J.D. Hackensacker the Third (Rudy Vallee). Of course his sister, The Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor) thinks the husband is a dreamboat, but she'll chase after any guy, apparently. Colbert convinces her wealthy beau that her husband is actually her brother, and this leads to double dating and double courtships. The Palm Beach Story stands out from other farcical comedies of it's day because it's rapid fire dialogue and quick pace are still just as clever today as they were when the film was made. Colbert and McCrea are fine as the leads, but it's Vallee and Astor who steal the show. The hedonistic playground of the wealthy is rich fodder for comedies of deceit, and this one takes quite a bit of the cake.
    Devon B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 25, 2011
    A woman separates from her husband so she can gold dig for his benefit. I'm confused by the unanimous approval this film garnered. There are a lot of madcap absurdities from beginning to end, including the most gullible millionaire in film history and some crazy gun-toting club who shoot up a train. More importantly, Claudette Colbert's character's objective is to seduce men into giving her money, which, although believable, makes her character difficult to identify with even if she plans to use the money for a "good cause." And the deus ex machina at the end is too ridiculous to believe. Overall, after a finished watching this film, I was convinced that it was proof that not all old films are gold, and even after I finished reading critics' uncritical support of it, I can't say I've been swayed.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    I remember loving this movie, but from reading the synopsis on here, it didn't remind me of the plot any, so I can't remember at the moment. I want to see this movie again.
    Aj V Super Reviewer

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