The Palm Beach Story follows up Sullivan’s Travels in Preston Sturges’ filmography, and he has quite the act to follow up indeed. I liked Sullivan’s Travels for many reasons, not the least being the quick-witted and smart screenplay, and The Palm Beach Story follows along in that same vein. There’s a slight genre shift from satirical, topical comedy to straight screwball romance, but Sturges’ material fits well enough in the genre that you never question what he’s doing there.
The film is advertised as a screwball comedy (and thus immediately my guard was raised), and indeed the opening credits are filled with zany and madcap sequences that, frankly, are a little bewildering and don’t make much sense, though with a little additional research I basically found out that it is supposed to be like that, and the twist near the ending helps to explain it as well, so no harm done I guess. Still, even though I was a big fan of Sturges’ previous effort, the genre of screwball continues to elude my palette; the script was jam-packed and ran along at such a fast pace that the film was half-over before I knew it, and the performances were decent, but not even that could break through the genre enough to make me genuinely like the film. I liked what the film had to offer, and I thought it was well-made, but again, it was just too screwball for my taste.
I can only hope that there aren’t very many of these types of films left on the list, a hope that may turn out to be somewhat filled as my list of ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s films grows ever smaller. The changing tastes of audiences would eventually see the evolution and maturity of the genre, but until then, I’m stuck with maudlin affairs like the plot of this one; then again, maybe I’m being a little too harsh. If this is your kind of thing, I think you’ll really like this one; it’s well done, and meanders in just the right ways for a film of its kind. If you’re like me, however, not even Preston Sturges will be able to change your mind, unfortunately.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10