Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Palm Beach Story

Walter Satterthwait persuaded me to take a two-week trail with Netflix. I figure that with the postal service we get in Alvin, that means I'll have about one movie delivered for free.

Anyway, the first one in my "queue," as the Netflix folks call it, was The Palm Beach Story. It's a screwball comedy written and directed by Preston Sturges. I liked it a lot. The frenetic opening is underpinned by "The William Tell Overture," which (because I'm of a certain age and very unsophisticated) made me think of The Lone Ranger. It has nothing to do with that, of course.

The story's about a beautiful wife (Claudette Colbert) who decides that her husband will never get ahead unless she divorces him and helps him out by marrying a billionaire. (I said this was a screwball comedy. It exists in a world unlike the one you and I live in and unlike the one anybody ever lived in.) She escapes the husband, Joel McCrea (and that's a terrible photo of him on the left), and meets an eccentric billionaire (Rudy Vallee) on the train to Palm Beach. McCrea follows her and is entangled with Vallee's sister, played by Mary Astor. It's all complicated and funny. The whole cast is great. Vallee even gets to sing. He and Astor use a pince-nez and a lorngette, respectively. Sig Arno plays a hanger-on named Toto and nearly steals the show, though not from the Weenie King, who appears at the beginning. Recommended for the next time you need to escape into a fantasy world with lots of laughs.

5 comments:

Gormania said...

Aw God few people who ever trod this earth have given me as much pleasure as Preston Sturges and his movies. You gotta rent the Miracle of Morgan's Creek. 100 astoundingly good performances. I'm told that Sturges did a lot of his own casting even down to the extras and it shows. He clearly had great affection for oddball American faces. No meanness intended--he just doted on them the way a painter would. And his life was as fascinating as his films, though at the end notably sad. When Hwood doesn't want you any more they REALLY don't want you any more. -Ed

Glen Engel-Cox said...

Sturges' posthumous autobiography (it was completed by his wife) is a great hoot, too. After seeing The Palm Beach Story, I immediately had to find out about all his other movies. I think I like him even better than Billy Wilder or Frank Capra when it comes to the screwball.

Sarah said...

This is only one of my all time favorite movies ever. Dear god, the Ale and Quail...

thanks for blogging this, Bill.

Brent McKee said...

And of course what would a Preston Sturges movie be without William Demarest. Struges used Demarest in the same sort of way that Frank Capra used the great Charles Lane - he had to be in every Struges picture. Demarest is usually worth the watching.

Bill said...

I kept waiting for Chip to wander in and ask Uncle Charley what was going on.