The Palm Beach Story (Filmmakers Collection) (1942)

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Released 2-Jul-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Preston Sturges : Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1942
Running Time 85:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Preston Sturges
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Claudette Colbert
Joel McCrea
Mary Astor
Rudy Vallee
Sig Arno
Robert Warwick
Arthur Stuart Hull
Torben Meyer
Jimmy Conlin
Victor Potel
William Demarest
Jack Norton
Robert Greig
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Victor Young


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Palm Beach Story is the third, but hopefully not the last, film in Umbrella Entertainments' Preston Sturges Collection.

The first two, Sullivans Travels and The Lady Eve, were joys to watch - examples of the effortlessly funny and snappy comedies that Hollywood has trouble making nowadays. The Palm Beach Story is generally not regarded as the equal of the first two but it is still a worthwhile purchase for anyone with a love of the Golden Age of Hollywood or screwball comedies.

Right from the start we know that we are in for a screwball treat. As the credits roll a series of events occur in fast motion (interspersed with freeze frames), silent of dialogue, but all set to a helter skelter version of the William Tell Overture. Finally, a bride and groom make it to the church on time - just! The credits roll again - "And they all lived happily ever after .... or did they?".

Skip five years and things aren't going so well for our married couple. Tom Jeffers (Joel McCrae) is a frustrated architect with many bold ideas but no financial backers. Geraldine 'Gerry' Jeffers (Claudette Colbert) is his selfish but long suffering wife, still in love with him but unable to adjust to his life of financial woes. She is a girl who likes her shopping and being kept in fine clothes.

After a wealthy old man gives her a wad of notes she hits upon a novel plan to divorce Tom and marry a rich man who can look after her needs but at the same time fund Tom's grand vision. This doesn't seem to present too many obstacles and one of the themes of the film is what Sturges once described as the Aristocracy of Beauty - in other words a beautiful woman will always get her way!

In the 40's it seems that Palm Beach, Florida was the place to go for a quickie divorce and off she trots with the doting Tom not far behind. After escaping from a group of soused old hunters on a train she chances upon John D. Hackensacker III a.k.a. "Snoodles" (Rudy Vallee), one of the world's wealthiest men and seizes the moment.

When Tom turns up on the scene she is forced to improvise, introducing him as her brother. That puts him firmly in the sights of Snoodles' sister, The Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor) , a veteran of several failed marriages.

As with the best screwball comedies much crazy situation comedy and sparkling dialogue ensues with the film racing to a finish like William Tell all over again!

McCrae is at the top of his game as the devoted but impractical Tom and Colbert shines as the vivacious but hedonistic Gerry. By 1942 Colbert had just slipped from being the highest paid star in Hollywood but this film brought her right back and her star burned bright throughout the 40's. As Gerry she handles the snappiest of lines with aplomb and manages to look ever so sexy in the shimmering costumes by Irene.

One of the greatest actresses who never made it to stardom, Mary Astor, brings an insanely fast delivery and unstoppable force to the princess, desperately trying to seduce Tom whilst her current lover trails in the distance.

Noted crooner Rudy Vallee gives a nice and genuine performance as the billionaire and even gets to sing a tune or two.

As usual, Sturges worked with his ensemble of supporting players. One of the joys of watching a Sturges film is to see the way that he used his repertory of actors to create interesting and different roles. It is equally interesting to see how some actors who were given small parts in this film have larger roles in later Sturges movies. In this film he gives us a real treat - the Sturges ensemble play The Ale and Quail Club a group of rich, irresponsible huntsmen off on a shooting trip. Drunk and uncontrollable, they turn the train ride to Palm Beach into a shooting gallery in a genuinely hilarious scene.

The Palm Beach Story may not have the same reputation as the two previous Sturges films. In my view, however, it is every bit their equal and a zippy refreshing movie full of sharp social commentary, visual gags and pratfalls.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

   The Palm Beach Story comes to DVD in its original 1.33:1 Cinematic Aspect Ratio.

Generally the image is pretty good and a slight improvement over the previous two films. It has not been the subject of a detailed digital restoration and as a consequence the quality pales in comparison with fully restored films from that era including Citizen Kane and Casablanca.

There is no noticeable damage to the print. There is a light dusting of artefacts, both positive and negative. Compression issues are non-existent.

The film is not particularly sharp with a fair bit of intentional soft focus around the female leads. The contrast is pretty good though.

As with the previous two films the greatest "problem" with the transfer is the high level of grain which suggests that the film is better watched on a small screen. Still this is probably the best the film has looked for 50 years.

All in all a pleasing transfer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The Palm Beach Story receives a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono transfer running at 224Kb/s.

This is perfectly adequate to convey the snappy dialogue which is at the heart of this film. The soundtrack is undamaged and the verbal exchanges can be followed with ease.

It is, as might be expected from a 60 year old film, a little thin and brittle on the ears but it seems churlish to criticise what is a decent sound transfer.

The audio sync appeared to be accurate.

The music for the film is suitably fun including the William Tell pastiche. As if a subtle connection to The Lady Eve the standard Isn't It Romantic plays in the background whilst Gerry is dancing with her rich beau.

All in all the sound is quite good considering the age of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of An Americal Dreamer (76 min)

Hmm! This is an excellent documentary about the life and work of Preston Sturges. The trouble is, it was included as an extra on Sullivan's Travels and The Lady Eve. Here is what I have said about the documentary in the past:

The Rise and Fall of Preston Sturges is a full length documentary on Sturges written by variety critic Todd McCarthy. It is a comprehensive overview of the work of this fascinating director. The documentary delves into his upbringing and the extent to which it either shaped his career, by adhering to the principles of his hedonistic mother, or defined his art by reacting against the high brow culture she represented. Sturges' mother was in fact a life long friend of Isadora Duncan, dancer and human headline extraordinaire. For the trivia buffs amongst us the film points out that it was Sturges' mother who gave Duncan the extra long scarf which was to catch in the wheels of her automobile and break her neck on a country drive! Starting from Sturges' principle that a good script is the best insurance policy a producer can buy the documentary follows Sturges' career through the extraordinary period of 1940 to 1944 when he made eight box office smashes. Sturges was a devotee of the self help book "Live two Lifetimes in One" which accounts for his extraordinary work rate as he strove to write and direct so many films in such a short period. The film not only chronicles his astounding purple patch but also the rot that set in for many years afterwards as Sturges fought with the studios. Making a deal with the devil he became one of the first producer, director, script writers when he signed up with Howard Hughes in a relationship that bore only sour fruit. Throughout this he apparently remained a optimist. The documentary dates from 1989 and is in 1.33:1. Some of the source material is in poor condition and the documentary itself displays all the flaws associated with an 18 year old film but, despite this, it is engaging viewing. The film also features interviews with some of the stars he worked with, including an impossibly tanned Betty Hutton, and has Sturges relate a funny story about accepting his only Oscar. When he took the statuette he joked to the audience that Preston Sturges was unable to make it and he had come in his stead. However few in the audience knew what Preston looked like and most believed that the acceptee was a ring-in. Sturges rued the fact that he never got this chance again.

Much as I can applaud the quality of the documentary, I am still a little bit confused why Umbrella should think that purchasers of the Preston Sturges Filmmakers Collection wouldn't want some different extras.

Further, unlike Sullivan's Travels, but in common with The Lady Eve, The Palm Beach Story doesn't feature a commentary.

Theatrical Trailer

The theatrical trailer is an interesting take on the film as Ale and Quail member William Demarest tells the story of the hunting trip - as if that was the core of the film..

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Palm Beach Story exists in Region 1 in a version unadorned by extras. The reviews I have read suggest a similar quality to the Region 4 version. It is also available solely as part of a Preston Sturges Boxset in Region 2. Reports as to the picture quality suggest that it may be one and the same as the Region 2 version. Buy the Region 4.

Summary

    The Palm Beach Story is a zippy screwball comedy featuring great performances from McCrea and Colbert with some great supporting roles.

The transfer is reasonably good for a 1942 vintage film but pales against anything from that era which has had the benefit of a digital restoration.

The extras are great unless you have already purchased either Sullivan's Travels or The Lady Eve .

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, September 10, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70 Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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