The Palm Beach Story (1942) is almost certainly not Preston Sturges’ best film, but it very well might be his funniest. It’s almost certainly his fastest-paced and has a plot device that would have made Shakespeare proud. What we have here is the tale of Gerry (Claudette Colbert) and Tom Jeffers (Joel McCrea), a couple who are struggling to make ends meet until Tom sells his invention of a new kind of airport that’s suspended over a city “like a tennis racket.” Just as they’re about to be tossed out of their apartment, a prospective tenant—the Wienie King (Robert Dudley), inventor of the Texas Wienie (“Lay off of ‘em, you’ll live longer”)—takes a shine to Gerry and gives her $700. After getting them out of debt, Gerry takes off for a divorce in Palm Beach where she hopes to marry a millionaire—primarily to finance Tom’s airport. After getting taken in by a group of wealthy, rowdy drunks—the Ale and Quail Club—with a private railroad car, she sneaks into a pullman when the rowdiness gets out of hand. She then just happens to run into the richest man in the world, John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee), by stepping on his face (twice) while climbing into an upper berth. But in the meantime the Wienie King has financed Tom’s trip to fly down and get her back. It’s fresh and funny and full of the kind of dialogue that only Preston Sturges could write.
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