Sunday, June 26, 2011

150. The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Preston Sturges
Written By: Preston Sturges
Main Cast: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor

SCREWBALL COMEDY AT IT'S FINEST

From horror in the hospital to 1940s screwball humor...just another dip in the roller coaster that is the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". I'm beginning to become a big fan of screwball comedies and "The Palm Beach Story" was no exception.

Tom (McCrea) and Geraldine Jeffers (Colbert) are a young married couple living in New York City. The film opens with their frantic wedding day and then we're immediately thrust five years into the future to find Tom Jeffers struggling with his architecture career. The couple are being forced out of their duplex and when potential new tenants come to check the place out, Geraldine meets the "Weenie King". The Weenie King is a deaf, wealthy, elderly man who wants nothing more than to help out the beautiful Geraldine, forking over to her $700 as if it were two bits. Geraldine pays the rent and all of the bills, buys herself a new dress and hangs on to $14 to take Tom to dinner that night. Tom isn't thrilled about the idea of them being handed money and later that night the couple make the decision to split up...well, that is, Geraldine makes the decision for him. She decides that together they'll never make it on their own, but alone, Geraldine can marry a wealthy man and Tom can live cheap while trying to execute his architecture. Geraldine takes off for Palm Beach, despite her husband's resistance, to get a divorce. Swindling every male onlooker who'll turn her way, she gets a train ticket and on board the "choo-choo" she meets John D. Hackensacker III, the wealthiest man in the country who is absolutely smitten with Geraldine. Yep, those are fantastic ingredients for a great screwball comedy!

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

Claudette Colbert, with her second and last film in the "1001" book has impressed me big time. She shines in "The Palm Beach Story" and shined just as much in "It Happened One Night". She'll definitely be filed under the 'significant finds' category when counting the pluses from the book. Another fantastic part of the cast of "The Palm Beach Story" was Rudy Vallee, who was constantly fidgeting with his spectacles and being a very likable character to boot. I knew in the back of my mind that this film was going to end with Tom and Geraldine getting back together, but I liked the character of John D. Hackensacker so much, that I dreaded the ending. The ending eventually came and honestly I'm not sure how I felt about it. On one hand, everyone comes out on top and they live happily ever after...(or do they?), but on the other hand it felt really tacked on and a gigantic excuse to send everyone home happy.

With the main story going on full force, you also had a few side acts that served to split your side on a continual basis, including "The Ale and Quail Club" and The Wiener King, who I got an immediate kick out of. It's a shame to think that this used to be the standard material being churned out of Hollywood and when compared to what is being churned out today, this is worlds better stuff. I couldn't imagine Hollywood putting out something this satisfying in today's age. In conclusion, a knockout cast paired with a great story, tied up with a mildly unsatisfying ending makes for a good day at the movies.

RATING: 7/10 I may be undercutting it by just a hair, but if so, I'll certainly rectify it come the end of the month. '7' is my knee jerk though.

MOVIES WATCHED: 270
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 731

June 26, 2011 3:00pm

2 comments:

  1. Just saw this tonight and really enjoyed it. Like you, I have really enjoyed the screwball comedies and am really glad the Book turned me on to them. Just one of many reasons why I love the Book, since I wouldn't have guessed screwball comedies would be my kind of genre before I started the journey.

    Unlike you, though, I loved the ending to this film. It was the "screwballiest" of screwball endings. You're right that it felt tacked on, but that's what I loved about it. I wanted everyone to end up happy and didn't think it would be possible until the deus ex machina of twins swooped in to save the day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thinking back the end actually makes me smile. It's just so silly that maybe it does work after all...

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