Film: The Palm Beach Story

The Palm Beach Story is a 1942 Screwball Comedy from writer/director Preston Sturges. The story concerns a New York couple who are struggling to make ends meet. Gerry, the wife (Claudette Colbert) comes up with a Zany Scheme to divorce her husband Tom (a struggling inventor played by Joel McCrea) so she can get a new rich husband to help her ex-husband with his plans for an above-ground airport. Gerry runs away to Palm Beach to get her divorce, Tom right behind her because he disapproves of the whole thing, and she captures the eye of one of the richest men in the world, Hackensacker (Rudy Vallee). Tom butts in and has to pretend to be his wife's brother, and he becomes the target of affection from the multiple-divorced sister of Hackensacker, the princess Centimillia (Mary Astor). As they get deeper and deeper into this scheme, Gerry begins to have second thoughts.

Hilarity Ensues even further.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Toto is this to the Princess.
  • Affectionate Nickname: The Princess calls her brother "Snoodles".
  • Alcohol Hic: One of the members of the Ale and Quail Club.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: The Ale and Quail Club shooting up their boxcar after too much booze.
  • All Women Are Lustful: The Princess.
    Tom: (pretending to be Captain McGloo ) Don't you ever talk about anything but Topic A?
    Princess Centimillia: Is there anything else?
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Toto speaks an indistinguishable (presumably European) language.
  • Book Ends: The opening and closing wedding scenes.
  • Brick Joke: The opening sequence.
  • Brutal Honesty: The princess is this towards Toto.
    Princess: "Toto, this is Captain McGloo. I'm going to see more of him and less of you from now on."
  • Butt Monkey: Toto, all the way.
  • The Cast Showoff: Rudy Vallee doing his own singing for an in-character, yet totally gratuitous musical scene.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Gerry and Tom revive their love but in the process they leave behind a flabbergasted Hackensacker and his Princess sister. Time to Pair the Spares by suddenly bringing in the twin brother/sister ploy for everyone to be Happily Ever After.
  • Creator Cameo: Sturges is leading a crew carrying Gerry's luggage off the yacht.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Gerry tries to hide from the old business man behind the shower curtain of her apartment.
  • Curtain Clothing: Gerry moans about not being a good housewife at the beginning, lacking an ability to make a dress out of window curtains, yet later she has to improvise a skirt made from a Pullman train blanket.
  • Deus ex Machina: The contrived situation that both Gerry and Tom had a twin sister/brother which helped to clean up romantic loose ends.
  • Enormous Engagement Ring: Claudette Colbert's character is proposed to by one of the richest men in the world. The ring so large that she tells him to put it away, or else the sight of it will convince her to go through with it (she is married already, anyway). She takes a final look at it before putting it away forever.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: The Princess is extremely fond of these:
    Hackensacker: You don't marry someone you just met the day before; at least I don't.
    Princess: But that's the only way, dear. If you get to know too much about them you'd never marry them.
  • Funny Foreigner: Toto. We don't know where he's from or what language he speaks. He's more like a dog than a companion.
  • Happily Ever After: Inverted by opening the film with a wedding. Reconstructed by showing how the marriage goes awry but the couple finding back together by the end. Lampshaded and subverted both times by following the caption "And they lived happily ever after" with another: "Or did they?"
  • Hypocritical Humor: Hackensacker calls his sister out on her tendency towards marrying men so quickly after she's met them, yet he's willing to do the same thing with Gerry.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Toto —> Princess —> Tom —> Gerry <— Hackensacker.
  • Motor Mouth: The princess wll not stop chattering.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Played with; Hackensacker is generally nice to all the service people he encounters, he just doesn't believe in tipping.
    Hackensacker: Tipping is un-American.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: John D. Hackensacker III is a pretty obvious goof on the Rockefellers.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever the hell was going on under the opening credits before Tom and Gerry's wedding.
  • Pair the Spares: To other people, namely, the twins of the leads.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Tom tries to evade the guard at the train station by wearing a hat and glasses. It doesn't work.
  • Pun: Hackensacker: "You made quite an impression" (after Gerry stepped on his face twice).
  • Punny Name: Toto, a Funny Foreigner speaking an incomprehensible language and following the princess like puppy.
    • Also, Tom and Gerry.
  • Running Gag: "Nitz!" "Yitz!"
    • Also, Hackensacker getting his glasses broken at several occasions.
  • Settle for Sibling: In a particularly insane, madcap ending which reveals that both Gerry and Tom have identical twin siblings.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense
  • Take That:
    Gerry: Don't you know that the greatest men in the world have told lies and let things be misunderstood if it was useful to them? Didn't you ever hear of a campaign promise?
  • Trigger Happy: The Ale and Quail Club members on the train.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: Hackensacker.
  • Zany Scheme: The thrust of the plot, which is a divorce to get her husband money from a new rich husband.
  • Zip Me Up: On two different occasions Gerry asks Tom's help to get out of a dress, and sexy times ensue.