Written and directed by Preston Sturges, the story follows a wife (Colbert) who decides to raise money for her penniless husband's (McCrea) invention by divorcing him and marrying a wealthy man.
Don't worry; it is a comedy.
The film makes it clear throughout that the couple will remain married, they just don't know it. The story, then, becomes a who's who of supporting players. Which eccentric character or caricature will the leads meet next? Franklin Pangborn as the officious apartment manager with a twitch? William Demarest as a drunken hunter who shoots saltines like skeet while on a crowded train? Mary Astor as an hilarious, hot-to-trot divorcee with a boyfriend named Toto? Yep. The gang's all here.
In this film, Sturges leaves an unshakable whiff of another of his screenplays. As in Palm Beach, The Good Fairy (1935) also features a woman who is willing to "sacrifice herself" so that the leading man can acquire extra cash. In Fairy, however, the plot point is played for pathos; here it's all-out slapstick.
If there is a problem with this strange little story it is this: like a train, the narrative picks up and drops off people very quickly. You wonder where the story is going to take this or that character, but then it just strands the person in the middle of the story, never to be heard from again, and you're off to the next vignette.
Speaking of being stranded, there's a comic bit where Colbert's purse and clothes are left in an abandoned train car. To her horror, she awakens to find the car gone. This was inspired by actual events in Sturges' life.
A relentlessly humorous tale. Lots of fun.
- Read the December 7, 1942 Life Magazine review here.
- Listen below or download the Old Gold Comedy Theater radio broadcast of The Palm Beach Story from Oct 29, 1944. Claudette Colbert reprises her role.
The Palm Beach Story - Old Gold Comedy Theater broadcast from Oct 29, 1944, starring Claudette Colbert