The Palm Beach Story
Not one of Preston Sturges’s best, in my opinion. It’s a bit hard to get up a lot of sympathy for the Claudette Colbert character, who spends most of the movie scheming to get rich. It’s all for hubby, who she insists she is divorcing, of course, and we all know they’ll get back together, but her change of heart is unconvincing. The middle section of the story is very annoying, with a dozen stupid-drunk rich guys on a train firing shotguns at random. I wanted to shoot them myself. Not funny at all. I was glad to see the last of them. Joel McCrea plays basically the same character he played in Sullivan’s Travels, a man with absolutely no sense of humor. He’s very good at it, but here doesn’t have much to work with. The real treat here is Rudy Vallée as a fussbudget billionaire. When I was young I always saw him as a sort of musical joke, with his megaphone and silly smile, but he was one hell of a comic actor. And his voice is good, too. He was a gigantic female heartthrob, and the first of the “crooners.” Interesting fact: that singing style, probably best exemplified by Bing Crosby, came about because of the science of sound amplification. Before, you had to project to the last row, and singers bellowed. Now they could whisper. How about that? Rudy had a degree in philosophy from Yale, and attended law school at the age of 36. And proving once again that in the musical community, there is no color, he insisted that Louis Armstrong take over his radio show when he was on vacation. It was the first time a black man ever hosted a radio show.