Posted by: philosopherouge | September 3, 2007

Comedy and The Palm Beach Story (1942)

The Palm Beach Story

I can’ tell you how good it feels to start watching classic Hollywood films again. They were the films I was introduced to as a child, and when I re-discovered cinema in my early teens the first thing I latched onto. In the past week I’ve returned to familiar grounds, and I think I will be sticking in my little comfort zone for at least a few more weeks. While the Palm Beach Story is not quite in the same league as Sullivan’s Travels or Unfaithfully Yours, it is a zany and delightful comedy that shows of Sturges’ skill as a screenwriter. He effectively plays with two films in one, and does a very good job at it. The performers are hilarious, especially Mary Astor who I never liked until now. The dialogue is almost too quick, and I’m surprised some of the stuff that got past the censors (either they didn’t catch it, or it went over their heads). I unfortunately am too giddy and busy to go into greater detail.

For fun, what are some of your favourite comedies from the 1930s and 40s? What do you think of Preston Sturges?

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Responses

  1. Most of the comedies from the period I grew up with featured Bob Hope and Abbott & Costello. I’ve only more recently gotten into comedies of the period as an extension of the other genres I’ve gotten into and because I feel my knowledge is lacking. I still haven’t seen any Preston Sturges comedies.

    My favorites would probably be His Girl Friday and It Happened One Night.

  2. Preston Sturges is awesome.
    *praise*

    I have nothing else to say.

  3. AR: We’re on entirely different pages then, I’ve only seen one Bobe Hope film, Road to Utopia and I’ve yet to see a single Abbott & Costello.

    Those are excellent choices, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen It Happened One Night, and I should revisit it. I imagine you’d like The Palm Beach Story as they both star Colbert, and there are even one or two references to it. His Girl Friday has also been awhile, but I remember it more clearly. It’s easily one of Hawks’ best and has some of the fastest dialogue I’ve ever come accross.

    Mango: I don’t think anything more needs to be said.

  4. Some of my favorite comedies of the 30’s and 40’s would be: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Pride and Prejudice (1940) [it’s a comdey of sorts], A Night at the Opera (1935) [gotta love the Marx Brothers], His Girl Friday (1940), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Gunga Din (1939, Bringing Up Baby (1938, It Happened One Night (1934), Destry Rides Again (1939), My Man Godfrey (1936), and a lot more Marx Brothers. I guess you could call me a fan of classic screwball comedies and the Marx Brothers were fantastic at that.

  5. Marlowe, some great choices you have there. I love the Marx Bros, and with the exception of one or two all their movies are great. Arsenic is frantic and wonderful and I’ve already mentioned my love for His Girl Friday. Gunga Din is an interesting choice, I wouldn’t consider it foremost comedy but it definetely fits the genre, a big influence for Indiana Jones (especially Temple of Doom), one of the best action/adventure films of the time. Baby is divine, I need to rewatch it as it’s been a few years. I can’t get anough of Cary Grant. My Man Godfrey is excellent, one of my all time favourite films. I haven’t seen Destry or Miracle, and I’m not much of a fan of Pride and Prejudice.

  6. Your love of classics is amazing. I was practically brought up on them so I kind of acquired a taste for them. One of my sister’s favorite films is Hatari! a comedy of sorts with the Duke, and we both are fans of Cary Grant. It still is disappointing he never received any recognization from the Academy only getting nods for his serious and technically weaker films. I forgot to mention the Thin Man as well. So many great comedies from back then.

  7. So glad to find out you have a love for classic film. I simply adore the thirties productions and try to highlight them as often as I can. While I love most of the movies mentioned above I’ll try and mention some that haven’t come up yet. First there’s “Libelled Lady” with William Powell, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy. “Love Crazy” with Powell and Loy again and the wonderful Gail Patrick. And finally “Theodora Goes Wild” with Irene Dunne playing a writer of risque books under a pseudonym while living the life of a dour spinster in her backwards home town until she tires of the charade and well, the title says it all.

    And Preston Sturges was a brilliant filmmaker. Having just recently re-watched “Sullivan’s Travels” to write about Veronica Lake I realized just how superb the visuals and pacing were. He was a great director of comedy, no doubt, but he was also a great director overall, period.

  8. I love The Palm Beach Story, and I love Sturges, although it’s weird how his star shined so brightly for just about seven years and then just fizzled horribly. One of my favorite films by him, which I rarely see mentioned, is The Great McGinty.

    The Palm Beach Story has some tremendously sexy scenes between Colbert & McCrea. I love the scene where he’s helping her unzip her dress while Rudy Vallee is serenading them below.

    Speaking of McCrea, another favorite comedy from the ’40s is The More the Merrier.

  9. Marlowe: I was brought up with them as well, sorta. Mostly Powell & Pressburger technicolor wonders, and MGM musicals. Lots of Wizard of Oz too. I still haven’t seen Hatari! but I’ve definitely been meaning to as Hawks is one of my favourite filmmakers. Cary Grant is brilliant, it’s a real shame that he never got much recognition. Even today many short change his skill in comedy and drama. The Thin Man is another great choice, my current desktop background is Powell shooting with his feet!

    Jonathan: I haven’t seen most that you’ve mentioned! Libeled Lady is brilliant though, really highlights Harlow’s comedy skills. I have been meaning to see Theodora Goes Wild for awhile, I’ll put it on prioritize.

    Sullivan’s Travels is probably my favourite of his films, you are right he’s more than just a good comedy director he has a great sense of style and originality. I think this is more apparently in Unfaithfully Yours, especially during the concert sequences but his entire oeuvre is quite wonderful. Sullivan’s Travels for me stands out particularly as a thesis of sorts in defense of the art and the importance of comedy. It’s unfortunate that so many people undervalue it in terms of cannons or best of lists.

    Stennie: I’ll have to see the Great McGinty, I was wondering where I should go next.

    YES, it is definitely very sexy, and not just because the leads were so attractive. They were so sensual without being revealing or coarse. Modern filmmakers could take a hint from the subtle romance of classic cinema.

  10. Very few, if any, of Abbott & Costello’s films managed to capture the magic of their stage performances. Most fans seem to agree Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is their best. Otherwise, I would actually recommend watching some bits from their TV show, not one of their films.

    And I actually don’t like Bob Hope, his films or his comedies, all that much. Even as a kid, he just didn’t appeal to me, but that’s what was around. I remember seeing a couple of films with Danny Kaye, who can be similarly corny, but had more grace and a childlike quality that I still appreciate.

    I do like Marx Brothers films quite a lot, but it’s been a while since I’ve watched any and there are still a number of films I need to see. I do prefer their comedy and the earlier silent performers to most 30’s/40’s screwball. Cary Grant is cool, but he doesn’t appeal to me as much as say, Buster Keaton.

  11. I’ll see that one then, and TV. I’m not much of a Bob Hope fan myself, I saw a bit of Paleface on TV though and that was quite entertaining. Danny Kaye is another actor I just haven’t been exposed to yet.

    I love the Marx Bros., especially their early stuff. It’s a shame their films and comedy were so tampered with. Groucho is a comic genius.

    Understandeable about Grant, but I love him all the same. I can’t really compare him to Keaton as they both have such incredibly different approaches. I also haven’t seen too much Keaton.

  12. The Palm Beach Story is probably my favourite Sturges. It really shows up why he was great IMO – wall-to-wall gags, Claudette Colbert, The Ale and Quail Club…only Sturges would think of sticking all these elements together in one film.

    As for favourite comedies, I like the stuff everyone else likes…Hawks, W.C. Fields, early Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy etc.


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