The Palm Beach Story, 1942

Claudate Colbert & "The Weenie King"

The Palm Beach Story - 1942 - Released November 7, 1942

Screwball Comedy Fairy Godfather

We see Claudette Colbert (as Gerry Jeffers) 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 rather odd but imaginative invention ideas (for example an inner-city airport suspended from wires off buildings so that the landing strip would float over city streets). They're both broke and the landlord isn't listening to excuses any longer.

In walks "The Weenie King" (Robert Dudley) an elderly millionaire in low cost meat products ("don't eat them, you'll live longer" 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.

But this doesn't calm everything down in their household, instead Claudette exits the city, heading to Florida by train as the mascot of the "Ale and Quail Club." They're hunting enthusiast millionaires, delighted to help a pretty girl, and they soon shoot the train to pieces in a drunken marksmanship contest. Why does she flee? She's convinced that she's no good for McCrea, that the one thing preventing him from breaking through to success is her holding him back with marital obligations.

She is also determined to find a millionaire of her own, one that will take care of her and fund her almost-but-not-quite-ex-husband's crazy schemes. Aboard the train going south she finds Rudy Vallee as J. D. Hackensacker III, an eccentric and wealthy young man. Vallee's characterization will be heavily lifted from by Tony Curtis for Some Like It Hot, where it appears in that film that Curtis gene-spliced Vallee with Cary Grant.

Back at the apartment, again the Weenie King appears, this time for McCrea. He's still broke and doesn't know what to do about his fleeing wife. "Go after her!" the Weenie King commands, but McCrea is clueless. "Get on a plane and meet her when she arrives in Florida!" The Weenie King then provides the funding for the rescue mission to save their marriage, though by the time McCrea has arrived, he'll have to pretend to be Colbert's brother and this leave shim wide open for the wandering eye of the sister of Vallee's millionaire played by Mary Astor.

This Preston Sturges film isn't a true parody of the popular 1940 The Philadelphia Story which is what the title seems to imply. Rather, 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, which is farce, slapstick and an attitude treating the rich as well-dressed people, but odd and possibly in some cases just plain crazy.

The film also has a demented multiple mistaken-identity sub-plot, so that by the end of the film we will suddenly see four couples at the marriage altar, and by then we're no longer exactly sure who is marrying who.

Criterion has just released a Bluray edition of the film Amazon sells this film here.

Palm Beach Story Bluray

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Claudette Colbert 1906 - 1993

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Claudette Colbert Bio Book - Claudette Colbert: She Walked in Beauty, Hollywood Legends Series, Hardcover – by Bernard F. Dick – Published by University Press of Mississippi, 2008, 304 pages

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Original Page Feb 2015 | Updated Feb 21, 2024