Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Once Again Love Among The Smart Set- Preston Sturgis’ “The Palm Beach Story” (1942)-A Film Review

Once Again Love Among The Smart Set- Preston Sturgis’ “The Palm Beach Story” (1942)-A Film Review

DVD Review   

By Sam Lowell, retired film critic

The Palm Beach Story, starring (double) Joel McCrea, (double) Claudette Colbert, (single) Rudy Vallee, (single) Mary Astor, written and directed by screwball comedy legend Preston Sturgis, 1942

Recently the newly installed administrator, the “boss” in common lingo from time immemorial among us slaves, Greg Green, who has deposed my old friend Allan Jackson with what proved to be my decisive vote of no confidence since I felt he was spinning his wheels in some 1960s nostalgia trip which he couldn’t abandon decided as a “democratic” gesture to get his hands dirty writing a film review something that he had never done despite having been what he called the moderator, again “boss” over at the on-line American Film Gazette website. Sandy Salmon my successor here (and also old friend and colleague from our own Gazette days) assigned him the old black and white classic Oscar-nominated The Libeled Lady with an all-star and bankable cast. Apparently in his youth unlike this writer Greg did not spent minute one while in high school or college watching retrospectives from the halcyon days of the black and white film noir days or the screwball comedy of the 1930s and 1940s. He gave the thing a big pan which is neither here nor there and his prerogative. What irked me no little was that he disparaged his grandparents who during their struggle to keep their heads above water appreciated such films. Even if they concerned the Mayfair swells a term he freely admitted he had never of before he talked to me about his feelings after viewing the film.

Well I have news for Greg I am on the trail of another tale from deep among the Mayfair swells when they head to their winter watering holes to escape the hellish Northern winters none other than legendary screwball comic master Preston Strugis’ The Palm Beach Story. On this one though you have to follow the bouncing ball since Mr. Sturgis is up to his “old now you see it now you don’t” best practice.         
For openers we see regular middle class striving Tom, played by durable Joel McCrea a Sturgis favorite and Gerry, played by resilient Claudette Colbert ready to tie the knot, get married and they do. Problem though is they are struggling like crazy to even keep their heads above water in the tough racket architecture design world that is Tom’s chosen profession. Gerry comes up with the bright idea that they should divorce so she can find some rich moneybags looking for an eligible divorcee on the rebound. And she does bagging this oil king played by crooner Rudy Vallee who takes her to his digs in Palm Beach then as now the resort of the very rich no plebeians need apply. (If you don’t believe me read the late Hunter Thompson’s Rolling Stone article on the Pulitzer divorce of the 1980s when the Mayfair swells bared their fangs). Its turns out that the oil king money bags has a promiscuous and flighty sister who at some point in her meanderings grabbed a prince and hence is a princess, played by cagey Mary Astor last seen in this space riding the ride, riding down to the big step off after Sam Spade throws her over to save his own worthless skin when a certain golden egg black bird turned out to be a fake.

While all this is going on Tom, you remember Tom, is lonely for his Gerry and flies down to Palm Beach to find out what is what. What is what turns out to be that old moneybags wants to marry Gerry and this looney sister princess has eyes just then for Tom. The conundrum seems like a dead-end for all parties but that is when you have to do double time with that bouncing ball. Let’s put it this way moneybags and the princess both get married. You have to go back to the beginning of the movie to figure out why all of this is not just a huge case of bigamies of which only lawyers would benefit. I am sure the “boss” would put his thumb down on this one too. What the heck did he do in his young man-hood on those what the hell do to vagrant Saturday afternoons.        

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