The Palm Beach Story (1942)

26 Apr
The Palm Beach Story (1942)

How is it that a scene where that guy helps that woman with a wayward necklace clasps is one of the hottest scenes ever filmed? How?

Preston Sturges and Jacques Tati are two of my favorite – I use this word under duress – auteurs.  What made me put them in a sentence together, something I wouldn’t normally have thought to do? The Palm Beach Story is on TCM at midnight and I watched Tati’s Play Time (againagainagain) the other night, and just now I got to thinking about The Rich. Money in comedy is usually either blithely ignored (all Fred & Ginger movies) or paramount (almost all Chaplin), especially in the Depression-era stuff in which I tend to indulge.

But in these two films I’m talking about, there are millionaires pulling strings hither and yon (in Tati’s case, only one – the American in the Royal Garden sequence, though someone (maybe the American?) must own that company Hulot is interviewing with; in Palm Beach it’s tough to throw a rock without hitting an affluent white guy). And they’re generally likeable, despite the fact that they’re also complete if somewhat unconscious puppetmasters. Perhaps that’s what feels unusual: in recent news, the ultra-rich are almost never portrayed as, you know, possessing of basic decency. In our modern Depression, it’s hard for me to imagine a hit comedy coming out that would treat wealth so blithely.

I am, however, quite certain that Abe Froman of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a direct descendent – perhaps the son – of The Wienie King. You will never convince me otherwise.

In the same vein, I like to think Frank Faylen’s taxi driver is Ernie of It’s a Wonderful Life – but why isn’t he in Bedford Falls? Do you think you know everything about Ernie’s life? Do you? Marvel Comics pulls this crap all the time. Why can’t Frank Faylen?

——–

I should also commit the brief blasphemy that this is my favorite Claudette Colbert performance. Yes, yes, It Happened One Night is a thing of beauty. “De gustibus non est disputandum” is tattooed on my bicep. Probably the finest work of Vallee and Astor, too. For McCrea, I have to lean more toward Sullivan’s Travels, which isn’t really surprising.

——–

And let’s meditate for a second on the ending. Without spoiling it, it’s a lot like the end of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Which got me to pondering:

-time spent on an unusual  boat ride;

-significant time spent pretending to be someone else;

-a romantically fickle wealthy woman (though The Princess Centimillia is a drop less mournful than Olivia);

-and I think it could safely be said that Sirs Toby & Andrew could slip unnoticed into the Ale & Quail Club’s private car.

My conclusion? I don’t have one. But comedies are, as I’ll probably harp on repeatedly here, so seldom taken seriously as art and as craft (why award one when there’s a Dour and Important story out there), so a gentle formal comparison to Shakespeare couldn’t hurt my case, could it?

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/86154/The-Palm-Beach-Story/

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One Response to “The Palm Beach Story (1942)”

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  1. DVR Alert: Preston Sturges and more on 7/18 | I Humbly Suggest... - July 18, 2013

    […] p.m. – The Palm Beach Story (1942) – about which I’ve already written, is the day’s last Sturges and the first of Frank Rich’s guest programmer picks. The second […]

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