The Palm Beach Story Reviews
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
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.