The Palm Beach Story - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Palm Beach Story Reviews

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½ July 24, 2016
"The Palm Beach Story" is about as holistically followable as an edition of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" printed in eight-point font on an Interview Magazine sized page, but don't let its chaotic nature spurn you away from its blinding erraticism. Written and directed by Preston Sturges, in the midst of his 1940-1944 hot streak (featuring such masterpieces as "The Lady Eve," "Sullivan's Travels," and "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek"), it's a screwball romantic comedy with a sizable emphasis on its screwball characteristics; of little importance is its supposedly central romance.
Sturges, a pundit of maniacally quick dialogue and cockamamie comic misunderstandings, never specialized in romance, anyway (though "The Lady Eve" is pretty sexy) - he's fluent in the art of the farce, lionhearted enough to push his wit so far that absurdity sometimes overtakes a sense of focused canniness. Embedded in his "The Great McGinty" and "Sullivan's Travels" is jaggedly edged satire never to be doubted; "The Lady Eve" and "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" are bedlam knockabouts with sturdy storylines that give their many fatuities a place to latch on to.
But "The Palm Beach Story" is a rom-com send up without enough plot to make its calculations burn; the scenarios, as well as many of the characterizations, are so nonsensical and so loony that we oftentimes find ourselves in the presence of anarchical comedy without the order necessary to hit our funny bone at its sweetest spot. It makes "My Man Godfrey" look like a declawed feline.
But "The Palm Beach Story's" chaos is a special kind of chaos, a chaos not accidental but a chaos premeditated and meant to make the head spin. The film is certainly one of Sturges most inhibited and most rabid - a collection of his wildest characters acquainting with his wildest situations - and yet the extremism is engaging because Sturges is so much in control of the madness. Just expect your brain to tingle more than your belly to ache.
At least the stars of "The Palm Beach Story" give it a few grains of normalcy. In the movie, headliners Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea are Gerry and Tom Jeffers, a married couple approaching their fifth anniversary. Those five years, despite moments of bliss, have, unfortunately, mostly been rocky: inventor Tom's creations have generated a minuscule amount of money, and housewife Gerry has become fed up living cheaply with a man who seems to be more attentive toward his work than he is to her. She loves the man, but is worried that their marriage cannot survive such an up-and-down routine for much longer.
After much introspection does she decide that divorce, painful as it is, is the best route to take. Only this isn't your typical divorce: because Gerry knows the marriage can work so long as financial stability is present, the divorce itself is more a front to allow for her to wed a rich guy and use his money to fund her husband's undertakings. An unethical thing to do, maybe, but Gerry, in touch with her feminine wiles, figures she doesn't have many other options. Using money generously handed to her by an outré billionaire (Robert Dudley) in a random act of kindness, she puts the plan in motion, setting off on a Palm Beach bound train without any sort of green-lighting from a perplexed Tom.
Because things are always much simpler in a ninety-minute movie than they are in our oft difficult real life, Gerry's gold digging hits the loot quickly when she meets John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallée), a mild-mannered wimp who also happens to be among the wealthiest men in the world. Seeing a perfect candidate in him - he spends an abominable amount of money buying her a new wardrobe after just a few hours of knowing her - she follows him on his yacht to the Florida getaway hoping for the best. But Tom has been hot on Gerry's trail ever since she left, following her by sky, and is hardly willing to let her asinine plot go through.
And "The Palm Beach Story" gets even more insane when it lands in the titular city; that's when all conflicts (which should be surrounded by sarcastic quotation marks) come to a breaking point, and that's when Hackensacker's sister, The Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor), shows up and terrorizes everyone with her fast talk and her fast living.
Indeed, the film's convoluted and mostly illogical, but there's something hypnotic about how frenzied it is - Sturges is so aware of his skills as a writer and as a director that not a single moment hits a wrong note, even if many of those notes sound funny and are perhaps played too quickly for us to really grasp them. The movie is shrewd, breakneck, and frivolous, expertly acted (though Colbert and McCrea are really the least interesting characters because they're so much more cogent than their supporting players) and ebulliently helmed. While I admire it more than I do wholeheartedly love it in the ways I idolize "The Lady Eve" and "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek," there's no denying the genius that "The Palm Beach Story" majestically shows off
½ September 14, 2015
I actually don't care for some of Preston Sturges more political or satirical films, but I really enjoyed this madcap comedy. A husband and wife have money troubles, so she decides to leave him and gold dig their way to financial freedom. The movie plays it fast and loose with the plot, but the characters are well written and there are some good parts. It definitely has one of the best endings of all time, that's for sure.
½ July 24, 2015
The Palm Beach Story is a real treat to watch from beginning to end. It is not the funniest screwball comedy I've seen, but it still delivers. Colbert is true to form as well, though I don't think she topped her Oscar winning performance in 'It Happened One Night.' The Weenie King is hilarious.
½ May 23, 2015
A disappointing entry from Sturges, with blase characters and a lackluster storyline that seems to go nowhere.
April 19, 2015
Loved this film and it was my first time seeing it. Written/directed by comedy genius Preston Sturges, this movie just moves along at a high pace with plenty of jokes and laughs along the way. Great example of a screwball comedy from the 30's/early 40's. Both Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert are excellent. a MUST watch for all film lovers!
½ April 11, 2015
Not as thematically resonant as say "Sullivan's Travels," or as sublimely entertaining as "The Lady Eve," yet still another screwball gem.
½ April 1, 2015
Aside from some cringe-worthy portrayals of African Americans, "The Palm Beach Story" is a consistently hilarious piece of screwball comedy.
February 13, 2015
Not as good as the Lady Eve or Sullivan's Travels, but this is still a great Preston Sturges film.
½ January 18, 2015
What a strange film...
½ December 5, 2014
Another Sturges tour-de-farce, just keep the powder dry!
½ December 3, 2014
There is no lack of screwball comedies that love can conquer poverty. But few like The Palm Beach Story that features drunks shooting around and making fool themselves.
December 2, 2014
Real life hidden behind a Classic Screwball comedy... In the bath tub with the Wienie King--It's a slightly cynical screwball comedy about lust and greed... Zany fun...overflowing with Sturges madness!!
½ November 18, 2014
S/he marries the wrong wo/man, twice.
February 4, 2014
A woman married to a broke architect decides to divorce him out of "practicality". Along the way, she meets a charming millionaire. I've been meaning to see more of Preston Sturges' filmography since I really loved his other two films. This one is yet another great one. It is a screwball comedy. Apart from a few politically incorrect but of-its-time depiction of African-Americans, it holds up very, very well. Surprisingly quite a bit racy! I'm surprised the words "ass" and "sex" sneaked through. Is this pre-Code? I don't think so. Correct me if I'm wrong! The dialogue is sharp and witty and the cast plays it to the hilt. They don't make them like these anymore.
½ July 19, 2013
One of the most acclaimed directors in the comedy genre is Preston Sturges. Sturges is famous for comedies like Sullivan's Travels and The Lady Eve. My introduction to this acclaimed director is The Palm Beach Story, a comedy that is not really the funniest film I've seen, but remains an entertaining film nonetheless.

After a crazy and part-confusing opening credit sequence, Tom and Gerry Jeffers (Joel McGrea and Claudette Colbert) get married (And they lived happily ever after.. or did they?). Five years later, the couple remains broke despite Tom's job. Gerry is fed up, so she heads to Palm Beach to divorce and remarry a wealthier man. Tom, who still loves her, follows her and attempts to bring her back.

Also, Rudy Vallee plays rich man John D. Hackensacker, who falls for Gerry, Mary Astor as Princess Centimella, Hackensacker's sister, Sig Arno plays the Princess's servant Toto, and Robert Dudley plays The Weenie King.

The Palm Beach Story is an interesting comedy. The opening sequence was a bit confusing, but was still entertaining (everything gets explained in the end). There were many comedic sequences that were funny as well. The scenes with The Weenie King are flat-out hilarious, and are the funniest scenes in the whole film. Other hilarious sequences include The Ail and Quail Cub, a group of drunken millionaires who love to shoot on trains and sing "A Hunting We Will Go.", a sequence where Tom is chasing his wife while covered in his bed comforter, and a suspicion that Tom's wife had an affair with The Weenie King ("You met in the bathtub?"). As for the couple in the film, Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert are a good couple and had good chemistry.

While the general Tomatometer for this film is 100%, this is not a perfect film. The second half is not as funny as the first, where the rich millionaire and his princess sister comes in the picture. While there are a few funny moments, such as the rich man believing that Gerry and Tom are brother and sister, the film shifted towards a plain comedy to a little melodrama. While it didn't screw up a comedy, like Groundhog Day did, The Palm Beach Story wasn't as fun. But I still rooted for the couple and wanted them to get back together, which helps me like the picture more.

While not as hilarious in the second half, The Palm Beach Story is an interesting comedy, with some wacky humor, a likeable couple, and The Weenie King. I'm hoping to watch Sturges's other famous films in the future, since I've heard them to be good, especially Sullivan's Travels.
July 16, 2013
Preston Sturges and the actors here give great screwball
July 16, 2013
Starring Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea with direction by Preston Sturges, the film opens with the chaotic marriage of a couple. As the story progresses we learn they are essentially broke because the husband is a lowly architect and his wife cannot do much anything. She resolves to divorce him so that he will not have to support her. She makes her way to Palm Beach by train, using her feminine charm on many men. One such millionaire is especially smitten with her. Despite his awkwardness, she continues the relationship as she wants to send money to her husband so his airport can be built. However, things get complicated when her husband comes for her and the millionaire's chatterbox sister comes to visit as well. In order to save face Colbert's character introduces him as her brother. Now her husband is being pursued by another woman and she is close to being proposed to. Finally, she explains what is going on leaving the brother and sister disappointed. However, there is still hope thanks to a hilarious coincidence. The film ends with there beautiful simultaneous wedding ceremonies. Preston Sturges definitely has a knack for the quirky dialogue and situations. I have to say I personally enjoyed the Lady Eve and Sullivan's Travels more but this film was certainly all over the place.
April 27, 2013
I enjoyed it very much however i felt that Joel McCrea's role seems to be scaled back for a person of his career at the time and Claudette seemed to be extended with a lot of fluff that didnt really need to be in the movie. The ending comes out from left field and seems to be a hashed together ending to a film that started out rather charming
½ March 22, 2013
A comedy that must have been controversial at that time.
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