The Palm Beach Story - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Palm Beach Story Reviews

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March 3, 2013
Not the Best Sturges Out There

Preston Sturges always had a complicated relationship with the Production Code. The original title for this film was "Is Marriage Necessary?" As you can imagine, this was not approved by Joe Breen. Then again, his next film was the considerably funnier, considerably more shocking [i]Miracle of Morgan's Creek[/i], a film about a woman who either got pregnant out of wedlock or else committed bigamy, depending on which interpretation of the story you prefer. And it featured a family by the name of Kockenlocker. By those standards, this film is pretty much tame. Yeah, the story is still a little disturbing, as we'll get to in a minute, and honestly it's more unsettling by today's standards than [i]Morgan's Creek[/i], which is among other things considerably less calculated. Trudy Kockenlocker gets herself into a ridiculous situation because she didn't think; the problem with these characters is that they are thinking.

This is the story of Gerry (Claudette Colbert) and Tom (Joel McCrea) Jeffers, a young couple who fell hopelessly in love and got married, only to discover that two cannot, in fact, live as cheaply as one. Especially when one is crazy jealous and sabotages working relationships when men hit on his wife. Or even just mildly flirt with, by the sound of things. Gerry decides that the best solution to the problem is to divorce Tom, marry a wealthy man, and use her new husband's funds to finance Tom's invention. So that's a thing to do, I suppose. She manages to finagle her way onto a train to Palm Beach by flirting with the members of the "Ale and Quail Club." While on the train, she meets wealthy J. D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee), who takes care of her after the Ale and Quail Club's car gets left on a siding somewhere--along with her clothes. Tom manages to get to Palm Beach himself, where he promptly catches the eye of J. D.'s oft-divorced sister, currently the Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor).

You see what I mean. She's basically prostituting herself to J. D. She doesn't dislike him, but she also doesn't seem to be all that attracted to him. She doesn't seem to be all that attracted to Tom, come to that; no one in the movie really seems to have chemistry with anyone else in the movie. However, there isn't even having his best interests at heart, the way there is with Tom. She's embarrassed that he's spending as much money on her as he is, at least at first, but her plan is to get men to pay for, you know, everything. She cons the cabbie into a ride to the station. She cons the Ale and Quail Club into a ride to Palm Beach. We don't know how much J. D. spends on that first shopping trip, but he buys her a $300 dress--in, let's be clear, 1942. (Apparently, this equates to over $4000 in 2012 dollars!) Her embarrassment doesn't last for long. Though I will say it's better than hanging out with the gun nuts she gets on the train with.

As for Tom, he's pretty much a cipher. Joel McCrea was never exactly the King of Charisma, as far as I'm concerned, though he was entertaining enough to watch. However, it's hard for me to see him as the impassioned lover he has to be in order to make the story work. I don't mean to say that I think he'd just let Gerry go, but I don't think he'd go along with her dimwitted story, either. The whole story is shaky, even aside from the dubious morality. I don't see Tom as being crazy in love with Gerry; I'm not even sure he likes her very much. There's not much to like about her as far as I can see. Tom is a nice enough guy, even if his airport idea is dumb, but I rather think he'd be happiest if he just took off and let all these people figure things out on their own. He seems smart enough so that I'm sure he can find a backer if he only manages to get away from Gerry. All his problems seem to be related to her, and she doesn't seem to be worth it.

The final point I'd like to make, here, requires spoilers. It indicates to me that all these people really are completely interchangeable. We find out literally minutes from the end that the thing that first attracted Tom and Gerry to one another is that they are both twins. (It isn't even the dumb joke of their names!) So okay, this means that they get to stay married to one another--that part, you knew was coming--and J. D. and Centimillia get to marry the twin! Of course, twins do not have matching personalities at all times. I've known several pairs of twins over the years, and while mostly, they're similar, you can't assume that. Certainly they're not identical enough in most cases that you can marry one assuming that they will be exactly like the other, with whom you've fallen in love. None of these people are interested in one another's personalities, because none of them really have much personality to be interested in. No, if I'm going to watch Preston Sturges, I'll just go watch [i]Miracle of Morgan's Creek[/i] again.
½ February 6, 2013
In the late 1930's, a couple (Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert) enter into marriage and the first few years seem great. However, the wife begins to contemplate whether it was a good idea or not and one night, she leaves him. She then heads down to Florida to get a divorce and gets mixed up with one of the nation's wealthiest men (Rudy Vallee) and his sister (Mary Astor), and the husband follows her into the web of confusion. It seems to me that the best comedies from the 1940's are always directed by Preston Surges, and this one, along with several others, proves it. A nice combination of good dialogue and slapstick humours. The shooting brigade on the train is a riot. The first ten minutes are also interesting in that Colbert speaks so much that I thought I was going to have an asthma attack. She doesn't take one breath, which is fairly impressive.
½ November 12, 2012
Preston Sturges ha sido denominado el "Anti-Capra" por su posicion cinica y acida sobre los valores morales norteamericanos. En esta cinta, vemos como un matrimonio se desintegra debido a los problemas economicos y como la esposa (una maravillosa Claudette Colbert) se ve llevada a utilizar sus encantos para que los hombres le aporten algo de dinero a su vida, a pesar de la objecion de su esposo (Joel McCrea). Sturges nos brinda muchos enredos y dialogos punzantes en esta loca comedia, que ademas logra ser dulce y romantica, ademas de tener un final mas que desquiciado.
October 26, 2012
the cast were great, too bad the story was not that strong enough :)
½ October 3, 2012
"Money Can't Buy Love"
September 24, 2012
It is completely nonsensical and even offensive at times but, all in all, "The Palm Beach Story" is a fairly entertaining comedy featuring some admirable efforts in developing drama.
September 2, 2012
delightful screwball comedy from the master sturges
August 21, 2012
Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert play Tom and Gerry Jeffers who are in love but about to get a divorce (making this likely to be one of those screwball comedies of remarriage, often discussed). You see, Gerry has some feminine wiles that she'd like to use to help Tom with his business (he's an inventor), but he's too scrupulous (and jealous) to let that happen. So, she up and leaves to Palm Beach to get a divorce and marry a richer guy (with Rudy Vallee, the richest guy, as the most likely candidate). The Wienie King funds her trip and then Tom's trip to win her back. Should I mention that this was written and directed by Preston Sturges? As such, you should know that you are in for a wry and ridiculous treat. Quite possibly, there is no logical route out of the romantic dilemma created here, unless...(well, I won't tip you to a screenwriter's safely guarded tricks of the trade).
August 15, 2012
More marvellous mayhem from Preston Sturges.
July 14, 2012
Yep, true Preston Sturges right here.
March 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.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
March 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.
½ March 3, 2012
A pretty ridiculous screwball comedy. A woman plans to divorce her husband and marry a millionaire. She journeys to Palm Beach and along the way meets a variety of millionaires and enjoys their lifestyle. The movie is actually pretty funny, but the story is so ridiculous and the ending was beyond bizarre. Yet, still one of the better films I've had to watch for class!
January 14, 2012
In the top ten screwball comedies of all time. Not only are Colbert and Joel McCrea fabulous, but so is Mary Astor as the ditzy princess and Rudy Vallee as a pathetic millionaire wooer. A completely delightful film.
½ November 26, 2011
A frenetic, twisty screwball with some of the funniest things you'll ever see
hunterjt13
Super Reviewer
October 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.
½ September 13, 2011
pretty funny and enjoyable movie
September 8, 2011
This was an interesting little film but I was expecting more from the director who did Sullivan's Travels.

This was a good film but the script was scattered and many scenes in the film didn't make a lot of sense and the humor was a little contrived.

It had funny elements and a good story it just had to many annoying qualities that made it less enjoyable to watch. A screwball comedy that was a little bit too screwy.
August 18, 2011
Preston Sturges' anarchic masterpiece is an ode to the inexplicable strangeness rather than the easy nice things about love. It challenges itself and its viewers by starting with a marriage in tatters, and sets about to have its characters fall in love with each other even while filing divorce from one another. It's brilliant, to say the least, and what's more is it's totally artistic while being laugh-out-loud funny. Sturges' style is meticulous, especially for the romantic comedy genre, and he isn't afraid to make his audience work for their pleasure. The film's opening credits have puzzled viewers since their debut, and it is only the patient and attentive viewers, the ones who think, who are rewarded at the movie's end. Despite the horror stories I've heard about her real life ego, I can't help but admit that Claudette Colbert is one of the funniest and most interesting actresses that graced Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s. She is so beautiful, and so delicate-looking, yet her comic timing is quick and jagged; she is perfect for this part. And her counterpart, Joel McCrea, is equally impressive in his deadpan role as the wild woman's husband, who cares about her, but not really, but, yeah, really does. This is a very funny movie and a masterpiece of storytelling besides.
½ July 19, 2011
Hilarious! This movie has the best cop-out ending ever, too. Claudette Colbert is really great in this film. I need to see more of her in screwball comedies. And more of Preston Sturges' stuff, too.
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