Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert in The Palm Beach Story. Image courtesy of Universal.
The Palm Beach Story (1942)
An inventor (Joel McCrea) has a million dollar idea but lacks the funds to make it a reality. When his wife (Claudette Colbert) meets a rich businessman who takes pity on her and gives her the money, her husband is suspicious. The two decide to divorce only to be drawn back together.
There’s no director more adept at combining hijinks with romance like Preston Sturges. Sturges combined risque sensibilities with old-fashioned romance to create something that feels new, yet warms the cockles of your heart. The Palm Beach Story features McCrea and Colbert at their zaniest in this story of a downtrodden couple who break up over a misunderstanding, only to end up in hotter water in an attempt to get back together. Without spoiling anything, each gets an opportunity to find other lovers, end up stuck together, and McCrea has to pretend to be Colbert’s brother.
For all the inanity, Sturges’ script has a zinger a minute, and some truly saucy scenes. Watch the way Colbert sits on McCrea’s lap as he buttons up the back of her dress. It’s one of the sultriest films captured on-screen, yet doesn’t rely on overt sexuality. After you’ve wiped the tears from your eyes while watching The Palm Beach Story, check out other Sturges features like Sullivan’s Travels (1941), The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944), and I Married a Witch (1942); I’m cheating on the last one since he only wrote it.
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