Thursday, March 24, 2022

Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea in Preston Sturges's "The Palm Beach Story"

The Palm Beach Story (1942) is an American screwball comedy written and directed by Preston Sturges and starring Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, and Rudy Vallee. The cinematography is by Victor Milner and the music is by Victor Young.

Tom Jeffers (McCrea) is an inventor going through a rough patch with his wife Gerry (Colbert). Used to living an upper-class life in New York City, their current financial situation (not good) isn't helping the relationship.

Gerry, still in love with her husband comes up with a plan that seems to make no sense to anyone but Gerry. Will her plan throw her marriage into greater peril or save it?

Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert

Preston Sturges (1898 - 1959) was an American playwright, screenwriter, and film director. Sturges was one of the first film directors to direct his own screenplays, opening up the door for Billy Wilder and Joseph L. Mankiewicz to do the same. Sturges was a successful playwright and Hollywood screenwriter and script doctor. As a writer-director, Sturges had an amazing output of films in a period of five years, all considered classics today. These films include The Great McGinty (1940), Christmas in July (1940), The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944). After leaving Paramount Pictures in a dispute with upper management, Sturges's career declined and he never produced anything close to the quality of his earlier successes. In spite of this decline, Sturges is considered one of the greatest talents to come out of Hollywood.

Claudette Colbert (1903 -1996) was an American stage, film, and television actress. She is perhaps best known for her role as Ellie Andrews in Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934). For her role in that film, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She was nominated two other times in that category. Colbert got her start in the theater where she played a variety of ingenue roles. In 1928, she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures where she quickly made a succession of movies. Her breakout role came in 1932 in The Sign of the Cross (1932) starring Fredric March and Charles Laughton. In 1934, she made three films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture: Imitation of Life, Cleopatra, and the eventual winner, It Happened One Night. No one had been able to match that record. Other popular films include I Met Him in Paris (1937), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), Midnight (1939), The Palm Beach Story (1942), Since You Went Away (1944), and The Egg and I (1947).

Joel McCrea (1905 – 1990) was an American movie star who appeared in over 100 films. During his almost-five-decades career, McCrea worked with some of the top directors in Hollywood including Alfred Hitchcock (Foreign Correspondent 1940), Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels 1941, The Palm Beach Story 1942), and George Stevens (The More the Merrier 1943). McCrea worked opposite some of the top leading actresses of the day including Miriam Hopkins, Irene Dunne, Veronica Lake, Claudette Colbert, and Barbara Stanwyck with whom he made six films. He was the first actor to play Dr. Kildare in the film Internes Can’t Take Money (1937) costarring Stanwyck. McCrea married actress Frances Dee in 1933. The two were married until McCrea’s death in 1990.

To watch the film on YouTube, click on the link below.

To join the discussion on March 28, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to the discussion on Zoom.

The Palm Beach Story trivia

  • Carole Lombard was scheduled to star alongside McCrea but was replaced by Colbert when Lombard was killed in a plane crash in 1942.
  • Preston Sturges makes a cameo appearance carrying Colbert's luggage after departing Rudy Vallee's yacht.
  • The studio didn't want Rudy Vallee to be cast in the role of J.D. Hackesacker III but Sturges persisted and got his way.
  • The $700 that the Wienie King gives Gerry would be worth over $10,000 today.
  • The Palm Beach Story was the fifth film writer-director Preston Sturges made in two years!

"The Ale and Quail Club" with Claudette Colbert
Why watch this film?

  • The Palm Beach Story is considered one of the best screwball comedies ever made. 
  • Preston Sturges is one of the true geniuses of Hollywood's classical period which makes watching his films practically mandatory.
  • It's an opportunity to see Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert at the peak of their powers and appeal.
  • The supporting cast includes Mary Astor and Rudy Vallee and the members of The Preston Sturges Stock Company.
  • Few people could write sophisticated comedy like Preston Sturges and The Palm Beach Story is just one example of the director's talent.

Discussion questions

  1. Do you think the director had a message about marriage and relationships buried beneath the comedy?
  2. What did you think of the comedic talents of Colbert and McCrea and Astor and Vallee?
  3. Was there any wisdom in Gerry's plan to help her husband succeed?
  4. Did you have a favorite actor or character actor?
  5. Was there anything that surprised you?
  6. Was the ending satisfying, confusing, brilliant?


  1. Interesting stuff! There's so much that I didn't know, including that Joel McCrea and Stanwyck were in six films together (!!), and that Carole Lombard was originally slated to play Gerry. Also, I'm glad that Sturges got his way about Rudy Vallee -- I think he's hilarious in this.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Karen. I agree, Rudy Vallee is hilarious. Too bad they didn't come up with some movie vehicles for him. He was truly a talented comic actor. "Tipping is un-American!"


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