the palm beach story
dir. preston sturges
The quickest damn comedy I think I’ve ever seen, The Palm Beach Story is another lost American gem unearthed by Criterion. The story follows Tom and Gerry (ha!), a married couple on the brink of divorce who find themselves, for better or worse, in Palm Beach, Florida–one trying desperately to save the marriage, the other doing everything they can to save it, and both in the middle of a very strange group of people.
“Men don’t get smarter as they grow older; they just lose their hair.”
The acting here is superb. Claudette Colbert (previously in It Happened One Night with Clark Gable) and Joel McCrea take the lead roles, but it is when Mary Astor (of The Maltese Falcon) comes on screen that the film really takes off. Though she and director Preston Sturges did not see eye to eye during filming, it is her character (the three-times wed and twice annulled Princess Centimillia) that made me laugh more than any other; the film is worth seeing, if for nothing else, for this performance.
Delightfully light-hearted and thoughtful, Palm Beach is a romantic comedy for the ages. With too many one-liners to record and beautiful long takes full of intricate dialogue, it’s another shining example of Criterion bringing a lost film back into the light it deserves.
Criterion Spine #742