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The Palm Beach Story

(1942 b 88')

En: 7 Ed: 6

Preston Sturges wrote and directed this screwball comedy about a moneyless couple; she goes gold-digging in Florida, and he follows.

Five years after the frantic wedding of Gerry (Claudette Colbert) and Tom Jeffers (Joel McCrea), she is given money to pay the rent by the nearly deaf sausage-maker (Robert Dudley), who is looking at her apartment on Park Avenue. Engineer Tom asks her why he gave her $700 if it wasn't sex. She explains, and Tom is jealous. Gerry asks him to move and complains of being broke. After dinner she says love is gone; but he helps unfasten her dress, kisses her, and carries her upstairs. In the morning Gerry writes a note and leaves. He runs after her, and she says she wants a divorce. She has Tom detained by cops. At Penn station Gerry says she is waiting for a ticket to Palm Beach, and men buy her one. On the train she dances with tipsy men. The sausage-maker gives Tom money for a plane ticket.

In the bar car two men from a hunting club bet and shoot rifles. Others hear and shoot too. Gerry breaks the glasses of John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee) while climbing into her berth. Men with dogs in the train sing "A Hunting We Will Go." Their car is left behind. Gerry says she lost her clothes, and John borrows some for her. In Jacksonville he buys her clothes and a diamond bracelet, keeping a record of costs he never adds up. On his yacht Gerry says she is getting divorced and that her husband needs $99,000.

Tom asks the porter about Gerry and waits for the yacht. Gerry meets John's sister Maude (Mary Astor) and her friend Toto (Sig Arno), whom she finds annoying. Gerry says that Tom is her brother. Maude likes Tom and invites him to stay with them. John tells Maude that he likes Gerry and wants to test her. Tom is jealous of John; but Maude laughs at John's plans and takes Tom away. John says he will pay for Tom's airport. Tom says Gerry's husband is involved as much as he is. Tom and Gerry argue and kiss goodnight. With an orchestra John serenades Gerry, singing "Goodnight Sweetheart." Gerry can't get her dress unfastened and asks Tom to help. They kiss. In the morning Gerry gives the bracelet back to John. Gerry tells John and Maude that Tom is her husband. John says he will still finance his airport. Gerry and Tom say they both have twins, and in the final scene the four wed.

This farce satirizes the idea that weddings lead to happiness ever after, hunting clubs, and the idle rich.

Copyright © 2004 by Sanderson Beck

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