Cover of "The Palm Beach Story"

Cover of The Palm Beach Story

Born into a rich family, director Preston Sturges was inspired to supply in The Palm Beach Story (1942) some generous millionaires and billionaires who help a financially pinched married couple, Tom and Gerry Jeffers (Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert).  So pinched are they, in fact, that Gerry sees herself as a financial albatross (and inadequate wife) for Tom and flees to Palm Beach for a divorce.  Really, though, the two love each other and so Tom pursues his misguided wife, only to find she now has a rich suitor (Rudy Vallee), led to believe that Tom is Gerry’s brother.

Colbert is charming and grounded in this unusual farce (whereas McCrea is strictly by-the-numbers) wherein Sturges again exhibits his love of slapstick.  Not only that:  he loves it when amusing lies are conjoined with heartwarming—or amusing—truth-telling.  Possibly this is because he knows there is consistent lying in fiction’s representations of romance; The Palm Beach Story is a romantic comedy.  What is also clearly true is that Mr. Preston knows how to lie like truth, which he does not do all the time but it is pleasing that he does do it.