The Palm Beach Story
Written and directed by Preston Sturges
Same writer and director who did The Lady Eve, similarly starring another incredibly smart and smart talking, stylish woman who has brilliant plans.
This is another similarly charming and beautifully styled, smartly scripted romantic comedy. It’s also a bit of a mystery about what exactly is at play and how easily a woman could leave her husband like that, and then there’s a big Shakespearean level twist to the story.
I sort of watched this twice. The first time with Ellen, only we started talking and didn’t pay enough attention to it, so I had to watch it again. The movie is paced very oddly to me. There’s a lot of set up of the story, then a long sequence on the train with a frankly disturbing ‘ale and quail society’ variously charming Gerry and then terrorizing everyone. Then the actual love story plot is squeezed into the last 30 minutes.
There’s an uncomfortable sequence with the ale and quail society, who burst in on Gerry while she was sleeping to sing to her, and then some of them start shooting at the black bartender. I know it’s not… this is a forties movie and race relations in America were terrible back then, but it’s still uncomfortable to watch now. At least the black people get to speak a little… but they’re only present as servants.
Does it make me love the people? I feel a lot for Gerry, mostly because she just basically wants to do what’s good for her partner but all this weird shit keeps happening around her. I like Tom when he’s with Gerry and being tender. He’s a bit too forties gentleman treating his wife like property the rest of the time. The love scenes between the two are sweet though.
John Hackensacker is pretty cool, he’s very decent to Gerry and even when things blow up he keeps his side of the deals and is generous and reasonable. Kind of… unbelievable as a character really. Then his sister Maud is a stereotypical frivolous woman who’s married and divorced a number of times.
Bechdel test: Yes, Maud and Gerry speak to each other. Often about John but also about how pretty Maud is and clothes and so on.
John: It is one of the great tragedies of this life that the men most in need of a beating up are always enormous.
Gerry: Don’t you know that the greatest men in the world have told lies and let things be misunderstood if it was useful to them? Didn’t you ever hear of a campaign promise?
State of Mind: That plot twist and resolution is just… I don’t know. I don’t know at all. You couldn’t remake this film now, I’ll tell you that. It’s pretty amusing but it’s not my favourite of these old comedies, it didn’t grab me the same way as Unfaithfully Yours or some of the others. It was just a bit… weird all round. I’m not sure if I’ll want to watch it again.