The Palm Beach Story Screen 9 articles

The Palm Beach Story

1942

The Palm Beach Story Poster
  • The New Republic: Manny Farber
    December 21, 1942 | Farber on Film (pp. 41-42)

    [Sturges'] latest comedy, "The Palm Beach Story," has scenes as wholeheartedly funny as anything can be, most of them coming in the first third of the picture... The moth-eaten story for this movie causes the comedy to drop after the first third; after that Sturges' smartness only partially relieves it.

  • [Gerry] spars with [her suitors] gently, sparkling with game merriment and irrepressible joie de vivre in this cheery raspberry to marriage and other pious institutions.

  • Rudy Vallee turns in his best performance as a gentle, puny millionaire named Hackensacker in this brilliant, simultaneously tender and scalding 1942 screwball comedy by Preston Sturges—one of the real gems in Sturges's hyperproductive period at Paramount.

  • Here's a tip: Do not try to understand what is going on during the credit sequence. Think of it as the screwball equivalent of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or The Sound and the Fury. You don't understand the openings of those novels until you have read to the end, and you won't understand the opening of Palm Beach Story until the final five minutes.

  • Like Sturges’ previous films and the screwball tradition within which they operate, The Palm Beach Story contains a complex attitude toward gender relations. Sturges retrospectively claimed that the film “was conceived as an illustration of my theory of the aristocracy of beauty” (2). But the term “sex”, rather than “beauty”, may be more accurately applied to the film.

  • The film is remarkable for its inventive, freewheeling story line; it's the kind of movie that can digress into a 20-minute tangent about a gun-happy hunting club wreaking havoc on a passenger train without batting an eye.

  • Sturges's broadest masterstroke ensures that, even as the clock runs out, the dramatic stakes melt away just as quickly. Who but Sturges could conceive of The Palm Beach Story without a seriocomic courtroom climax, or a mad scheme to halt a wedding already in progress, or some other timeworn mechanism? The Sturges alternative: a gentle implosion of expectations, as if the rug could be pulled out from under us merely by tugging on a stray thread.

  • Practicality and comedy don’t generally go hand in hand, but Sturges succeeds in making The Palm Beach Story as hilarious as it is realistic. Its happy ending insists again that a relationship devoid of money is an uphill battle, even as it abruptly introduces an absurdist twist that retroactively makes sense of the bizarre opening credits sequence. Mister, we could use a man like Preston Sturges again.

  • Because there is no romantic comedy less certain about the notion of lasting love than The Palm Beach Story (1942), there is no movie more comforting... The Palm Beach Story is the diamond bracelet of romantic comedies: glittering, extravagant in feeling and in laughs, representative of all the things you might buy in the moonlight and come to regret the next day—but just look at the thing!

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