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The Palm Beach Story

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Palm Beach Story
The Palm Beach Story postr.jpg
theatrical release poster
Directed byPreston Sturges
Written byPreston Sturges
Produced byBuddy G. DeSylva (uncredited)
Paul Jones
(assoc. producer)
StarringClaudette Colbert
Joel McCrea
Mary Astor
Rudy Vallee
CinematographyVictor Milner
Edited byStuart Gilmore
Music byVictor Young
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
December 10, 1942 (NYC)
January 1, 1943 (U.S. general)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$950,000 (approx)[1]
Box office$1.7 million (US rentals)[2]

The Palm Beach Story is a 1942 screwball comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor and Rudy Vallée. Victor Young contributed the musical score, including a fast-paced variation of the William Tell Overture for the opening scenes. Typical of a Sturges film, the pacing and dialogue of The Palm Beach Story are very fast.


Tom and Gerry Jeffers (Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert) are a married couple in New York City who are down on their luck financially, which is pushing the marriage to an end. However, there is a deeper problem with their relationship, just hinted at under the opening credits in the prologue and only disclosed at the end.

The couple remain married from 1937 until 1942 when the story begins. Gerry decides that Tom would be better off if they split. She packs her bags; takes some money offered to her by the Wienie King (Robert Dudley), a strange, rich man who is thinking of renting the Jeffers' apartment; and boards a train for Palm Beach, Florida. She plans to get a divorce and meet a wealthy second husband who can help Tom. On the train, she meets the eccentric John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallée), one of the richest men in the world.

Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert, stars of The Palm Beach Story, from the trailer for the film
Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert, stars of The Palm Beach Story, from the trailer for the film

Because of an encounter with the wild and drunken millionaire members of the Ale and Quail hunting club, Gerry loses all her luggage; after making do with clothing scrounged from other passengers, she is forced to accept Hackensacker's extravagant charity. They leave the train and go on a shopping spree for everything from lingerie to jewelry. Hackensacker minutely notes the cost of everything in a notebook, which he never bothers to add. They make the remainder of the trip to Palm Beach on Hackensacker's yacht named The Erl King (a Sturges joke on oil, the source of the Hackensacker family business).

Tom follows Gerry to Palm Beach by air, with the impromptu financial assistance of the Wienie King. When Tom meets Hackensacker, Gerry introduces him as her brother Captain McGlue. Soon, Hackensacker falls for Gerry, and his often-married, man-hungry sister, Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor), chases Tom, but her last lover Toto (Sig Arno) still follows her around. To help his suit with Gerry, Hackensacker agrees to invest in Tom's scheme to build an airport suspended over a city by wires.

Tom finally persuades Gerry to give their marriage another chance, and they confess their masquerade to their disappointed suitors. Although he is disappointed, Hackensacker intends to go through with his investment in the suspended airport because he thinks it is a good business deal and he never lets anything get in the way of business. Then, when Tom and Gerry reveal that they met because they are both identical twins, which explains the opening sequence of the film, Hackensacker and his sister are elated. The final scene shows Hackensacker and Gerry's twin sister, and the Princess and Tom's twin brother, getting married, with Gerry and Tom standing as the maid of honor and best man for both.

The film ends where it began after the prologue, with the words "And they lived happily ever after...or did they?" on title cards.


Cast notes


At least part of the initial inspiration for The Palm Beach Story may have come to Preston Sturges from close to home because his ex-wife Eleanor Hutton was an heiress who moved among the European aristocracy, and she was once wooed by Prince Jerome Rospigliosi-Gioeni, and Sturges had shuttled between Europe and America as a young man. One incident in the film is based on something that happened to Sturges and his mother while traveling by train to Paris: when the car with their compartment was uncoupled while they ate dinner two cars away.[6]

The story Sturges came up with had the title Is Marriage Necessary?, and this titled, along with the alternative Is That Bad?, became a working title for the film. Is Marriage Necessary? was rejected by the censors of the Hays Office, who also rejected the script that Paramount submitted because of its "sex suggestive situations...and dialogue." Changes were made, but the Hays Office continued to reject the script because of its "light treatment of marriage and divorce" and because of similarities between the John D. Hackensacker III character and John D. Rockefeller. More changes were made, including reducing the number of Princess Centimillia's previous marriages from eight to three (plus two annulments), then the script finally was approved.[3]

Claudette Colbert received $150,000 for her role, and Joel McCrea was paid $60,000.[6]

The second unit did background shooting at Penn Station in Manhattan. The film went into general release on 1 January 1943. The film was released on video in the U.S. on 12 July 1990 and re-released on 30 June 1993.[7]


In 1998, Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader included the film in his unranked list of the best American films not included on the AFI Top 100.[8]

In 2000, the American Film Institute included the film in AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs (#77).[9]

See also


  1. ^ James Curtis, Between Flops: A Biography of Preston Sturges, Limelight, 1984 p162
  2. ^ "101 Pix Gross in Millions" Variety 6 Jan 1943 p 58
  3. ^ a b TCM Notes
  4. ^ Allmovie Awards
  5. ^ Demarest appeared in Diamond Jim (1935), Easy Living (1937), The Great McGinty (1940), Christmas in July (1940), The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) and The Great Moment (1944)
  6. ^ a b Stafford, Jeff "The Palm Beach Story" (TCM article)
  7. ^ "The Palm Beach Story (1942) - Misc Notes -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  8. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (June 25, 1998). "List-o-Mania: Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love American Movies". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on April 13, 2020.
  9. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2002. Retrieved August 22, 2016.

External links

This page was last edited on 13 November 2021, at 10:29
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