Review: The Palm Beach Story (1942)

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I wish I could talk as snappy as these characters do, even a tenth of their snap and I’d be a much happier person!

Written By: Preston Sturges
Directed By: Preston Sturges

Preston Sturges sure has a way with words. Listening to one of his movies is like an orgasmic treat for your ears. Sturges writes the type of witty and fast dialogue that film makers like Quinton Tarantino wish they could write. Sturges isn’t very big on the physical comedy in The Palm Beach Story. There are certainly minor elements of it, mainly with the Quail and Ale Club, but unlike most screwball comedies the screwiness in The Palm Beach Story comes strictly from the dialogue. Because of the The Palm Beach Story either sinks or swims because of that dialogue, and The Palm Beach Story definitely ends up swimming at Olympic caliber levels.

The comic timing between Claudette Colbert, who is also incredibly cute in The Palm Beach Story, Joel McRea and Rudy Vallee is impeccable. But, the late arrivals to the film that almost steal the show from all of the above are Mary Astor as Princess Centimillia and Sig Arno as her erstwhile, but unwanted, companion Toto. I recently watched The Maltese Falcon and I was very unimpressed with Astor’s work in that film. But, in The Palm Beach Story she is faster and wittier than any person should be. Prior to her arrival the story had reached a sort of lull, the dialogue had slowed somewhat and the jokes were slowly receding in their humor. Astor, and Arno, injected the film with energy and propelled it till the very end. The last thirty or so minutes were non-stop dialogue with barely a second for the characters or the audience to breathe, if one could breathe in between all the laughter.

Outside of that one dry spot in the middle there isn’t a moment wasted in The Palm Beach Story. From the very beginning when we join a madcap wedding already in progress it attacks our funny bone and it never lets up. The performances are great across the board and as I have stressed the dialogue is some of the wittiest and funniest you will ever find. The Palm Beach Story is a great introduction to the genius of Preston Sturges and it is a screwball comedy that manages to be different from other screwball comedies of the same period. Palm Beach is always beautiful, but it’s never quite as funny as in The Palm Beach Story.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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2 responses to “Review: The Palm Beach Story (1942)

  1. good review, enjoying your blog

    newman

  2. Thanks for checking out the blog. :)

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