“Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Featuring Claudette Colbert in… The Palm Beach Story (1942)

For my last look at one of actress Claudette Colbert’s films (to end the celebration of her as the Star Of The Month), we’ve got her 1942 comedy The Palm Beach Story, also starring Joel McCrea!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pinknic (1967)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 9 seconds)

The Pink Panther is stuck in a cabin awaiting the arrival of spring, and is stuck with an equally hungry mouse. This short is, at best, average for the series. Certainly, the antics of the mouse as he tries to eat the Panther provide much of the humor, here. However, the fact that the Panther is hungry as well gets quickly dropped, as time moves quickly, with nary a drop of food hinted at (other than a picture of a fish that the Panther tries to cook but which gets eaten by the mouse). I like it, but it’s at best middle of the pack, and one I’m not *quite* as likely to come back to as often as others I’ve seen.

And Now For The Main Feature…

After six years of marriage, Tom (Joel McCrea) and Gerry Jeffers (Claudette Colbert) are flat broke.  The manager of their Park Avenue apartment building is showing their place to some prospective tenants (since they haven’t paid their rent).  Gerry is still in the apartment while this is happening, but she tries to keep out of sight.  However, one of the prospective tenants, the self-proclaimed Wienie King (Robert Dudley) pokes around, and comes across her.  When he finds out that the beautiful Gerry is broke, he decides to give her $700 to help pay the rent and other things.  Feeling better with the bills paid (and frustrated at the idea that they will quickly be in the same boat again since her inventor husband is struggling to get anybody to invest in his inventions), Gerry decides to divorce Tom and use her sex appeal to marry a millionaire (and help support Tom financially that way).  Tom doesn’t like the idea, but she manages to get to the train station to get away before he can stop her.  Without any money or luggage, she uses her appeal to get some men from the Ale And Quail Club to get her a ticket.  However, while in their private car, the men all get drunk and start shooting, so she makes her escape towards the front of the train.  There, she finds a berth above J. D. “Snoodles” Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee) and sleeps there.  In the morning, she finds that she has no clothes to wear (everything was in the private car with the Ale and Quail Club, and that car was disconnected because the conductor was fed up with the group’s antics).  So, Snoodles comes to her rescue at the next town, and buys her many outfits and bracelets, etc.  When he takes her the rest of the way to Palm Beach on his yacht, she learns who he is (one of the richest men in the world), and they get to know each other better.  In the meantime, Tom also meets the Wienie King, who gives him money to take a plane ahead of her in an attempt to reconcile.  When he learns from a porter about Gerry getting off the train with somebody, Tom goes to the pier to meet the yacht.  He is not the only one there to meet it, as it is also being met by Snoodles’ sister, the often-married (and divorced) Princess Maude Centimillia (Mary Astor), along with her current suitor, Toto (Sig Arno).  When she sees Tom on the dock, Gerry introduces him as her brother, “Captain McGlue” (since Snoodles already knew of her husband), and Maude takes an immediate liking to him.  Tom is not fond of the overall situation, but he wants Gerry back, so he tries to make the best of it (while keeping an eye on her).  Meanwhile, she works on Snoodles to get him to invest in Tom’s idea.  Of course, the question remains: will things work out for everybody?

Director Preston Sturges was enjoying great success at the time, following the well-received The Lady Eve (which I hope to review later this year), which had also allowed him to do his passion project: Sullivan’s Travels.  He had planned to possibly do another film with actress Veronica Lake (which ended up being handed off to director René Clair and would become I Married A Witch).  So, Sturges came up with his own idea, borrowing heavily from his own life experiences.  At the time, the story was tentatively being called Is That Bad? or Is Marriage Necessary? (both titles that got into trouble with the censors at the Hays office).  Originally, the plan was for actress Carole Lombard to star in this film, but her death changed things, resulting in Claudette Colbert taking over the role.  Rudy Vallee’s casting was mainly at the insistence of Sturges, as Vallee had mostly been a failure in previous movies, but this film’s success changed his career trajectory, allowing him the opportunity to do more comedic roles.  This film was an expensive one, in between the sets and the salaries of the cast, but it still proved a hit with audiences who wanted a relief from the various dramas and war films of the time.

I will readily admit that I like actress Claudette Colbert’s performance in this film.  She does great as a gal who prefers to live lavishly (but struggles to do so on her husband’s income).  Especially with the attention (and money) she gets from the Wienie King, she is quick to realize she is still young and beautiful, which she believes can get her anywhere.  We can see that she still loves her husband and wants to help him out, but, as she says, his jealous streak prevents her from doing anything to help him successfully. Through her performance, we are shown how she is trying to fight , not just for a better life for herself, but for her husband, and yet, she has to fight her own emotions and love for her husband in order to do so.

Overall, I will readily admit that I had a lot of fun with this one. That opening credits sequence gets the movie started off on the right foot (but I can’t describe it without spoiling some things). Admittedly, I would also say it almost feels like it belongs to a different movie, with the events shown not really coming into play until the very end (and even then, you’re still slightly confused about what was going on). Still, the cast are all quite fun, including Mary Astor as the man-hungry princess, who always gets the man she wants (but can’t seem to get rid of her current lover, Toto). The only other weak point, in a gag that really isn’t aging well, is all the hunters on the train, especially when they start shooting the place up (in a drunken stupor, but it’s still not as funny nowadays). All its faults aside, this is another classic comedy from director Preston Sturges that I thoroughly enjoyed, and one I would say is well worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)Claudette ColbertSo Proudly We Hail (1943)

The Great Man’s Lady (1942) – Joel McCrea

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Mary Astor – Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

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