The Palm Beach Story, 1942
Caudette Colbert & "The Weenie King"
The Palm Beach Story - 1942 - Released November 7, 1942
Screwball Comedy Fairy Godfather
In the screenshot above, Claudette Colbert (as Gerry Jeffers) is hiding in her shower stall because she is in the process of being evicted from the apartment she shares with her husband (Joel McCrea as Tom Jeffers). He is not around because he is out trying to sell his imaginative invention ideas (for example an inner-city airport suspended from wires that would float over city streets). They're both broke and the landlord isn't listening to anymore excuses.
In walks "The Weenie King,"(Robert Dudley) an elderly millionaire in low cost meat products ("don't eat them, you'll live long" he warns Claudette). He's being dragged around town by his wife, shopping for a luxury apartment.
The Weenie King is smitten with Claudette, and after he learns of how she and her husband are about to be evicted, he pays up their back rent and hands over a little extra money so that they can square things with their other creditors.
Shortly after, Claudette will leave Joel McCrea, heading to Florida by train (as the mascot of the "Ale and Quail Club," hunting enthusiast millionaires who soon shoot the train to pieces in a drunken marksmanship contest).
Claudette is convinced that she's no good for McCrea, the one thing preventing him from getting ahead in business, and once she has moved herself out of his way she is sure he'll break through to success.
But, being practical, Claudette is determined to find a millionaire of her own, which she does in short order, namely Rudy Vallee as J. D. Hackensacker III. (Vallee's characterization is heavily lifted from by Tony Curtis for Some Like It Hot, in which Curtis will gene-splice Vallee with Cary Grant).
But back at the apartment, in walks the Weenie King again, this time on McCrea, who is still broke and doesn't know what to do about his fleeing wife. "Go after her!" he commands, but McCrea is clueless. "Get on a plane and meet her when she arrives in Florida!" and the Weenie King then provides the funding for the rescue mission to save their marriage.
This Preston Sturges film covers slightly similar ground that the 1940 The Philadelphia Story does, but instead of a sophisticated, urbane comedy about female identity, gender roles,and marital loyalty among the upper classes presented in the elegant forms of Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, we instead have the Sturges version, in which he throws in farce, slapstick and treats the rich as people who are well-dressed, crazy, and sometimes just plain odd. And it's all due to love in this classic screwball comedy (and that doesn't even touch upon Sturges' demented multiple mistaken-identity sub-plot, meaning that by the end of the film as we see four couples at the marriage altar, we're no longer sure who is actualy marrying who.)
Criterion has just released a Bluray edition of the film in 4K resolution with restoration work showing a cleaner and better sounding version of the tale than what previously appeared in the 2006 DVD Preston Sturges Filmmaker Collection. Amazon sells this film with a significant discount here.
Original Page Feb 2015 | Updated March 2018
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- The Frisco Kid - 1935
- The Twonky - 1953
- Meet John Doe - 1941
- Day of Anger - 1967
- Central Park - 1932 - Joan Blondell has trouble on her hands when she gets suckered into helping a gangster to rob a charity event. Though this film stars Joan and Wallace Ford, it also features the American Great Depression which is the background for the hunger and desperation that flavors the film.