The Palm Beach Story Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor
  • Director: Preston Sturges
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: January 20, 2015
  • Run Time: 88 minutes


            Preston Sturges put the final note in the popular screwball comedy movement in the 1930s with this 1942 madcap comedy; one which Stanley Cavell would appropriately refer to as a ‘comedy of remarriage.’ All of the elements of screwball comedy are present and in top form, but somehow this still feels distinctly like a Preston Sturges film above all else. Physical comedy mixes with clever repartee between the characters, like a socially conscious slapstick farce.


            The fast-paced comedy filled with hijinks such as the infamous train sequences involving a drunkenly boisterous hunting club make it easy to see why Sturges and Frank Capra were often compared, with the latter was known for being far more sentimental in his messages. Sturges is far more intellectual with the humor, though that doesn’t mean he is afraid to get messy along the way. In The Palm Beach Story a wife named Gerry (Claudette Colbert) suddenly decides that she must leave her husband, Tom (Joel McCree), fleeing to Florida for a divorce in hopes that she might solve the financial problems they have had. Gerry sees her own good looks as an asset that is going unused in marriage, and proves the superficial value that female charms create by hitching a ride all the way to Florida without any money.


            This task is made much easier when Gerry has a meet cute with a wealthy young tycoon (Rudy Vallee), who sister is a princess (played by Mary Astor). She finds this luxurious new lifestyle exactly the solution she was seeking for the financial problems of her husband, who threatens to destroy her plans by following her to Palm Beach. In hopes of helping him as well as herself, Gerry convinces her new suitor that Tom is merely her brother. This type of comedy of error has been around since Shakespeare, and has continued ever since. For this reason, new viewers of The Palm Beach Story may find these comedic scenarios expected, though few will see the twist ending coming.


            The film has been given a new 4K digital restoration for this Blu-ray release, along with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The special features include new interviews with writer/historian James Harvey and actor/comedian Bill Hader about the influential film. Also included is an audio-only radio adaptation of the film from 1943 and a World War II propaganda short film directed by Sturges. The package also comes with a foldout insert with an essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek.


    Entertainment Value: 8/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10

    Historical Significance:  9/10

    Special Features: 8/10



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