Like the movie in yesterday’s review, this movie is also about a woman chasing after a rich husband, except this one’s already married. (Ooops…I smell trouble.)
The Palm Beach Story, directed by Preston Sturges, features a woman who only wants success for the man she loves – so she decides to divorce him. Claudette Colbert plays Geraldine Jeffers, and Joel McCrea is her husband Tom.
Geraldine (Gerry) and Tom Jeffers are late on their rent again, so their apartment is being shown to prospective renters. Robert Dudley plays the old man looking over the apartment. He meets Gerry and is enamored with her. He gives her money to pay the rent, claiming to be The Wienie King who gained his fortune by inventing the Texas Wienie. (You may remember seeing him act in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and in Citizen Kane.) He gave her enough to cover her rent, other past-due bills, and a new dress.
Tom’s guilt over not being the one with the money builds until he’s jealous and sour. His pride keeps him from taking a sensible job, and his passion for inventing keeps him poor.
She brings up divorce because she thinks he’s better off without her. It’s easy to see she still loves him when she claims, “When love’s gone, there’s nothing left but admiration and respect.” He doesn’t want a divorce and tries to convince her to stay by giving her a toe-curling kiss. But she leaves him the next morning, focused on the idea that this is for his own good.
Gerry leaves town on a train where she meets members of the Ale & Quail club. One of the members was played by William Demarest, a familiar face since I used to watch him as Uncle Charley on My Three Sons. On the train, she also meets John D Hackensacker III, the richest man around. John wants to help her out, so he buys her gifts and takes her to his sister’s mansion by yacht. Rudy Vallee is charming as Hackensacker, the cautious yet captivated beau. Vallee used to be a singing band leader who performed the song which members of the Ale & Quail Club sang to Gerry on the train: “Goodnight, Sweetheart”.
Mary Astor plays Hackensacker’s very talkative sister. Astor also performed in The Maltese falcon, Meet Me in St. Louis, and in Little Women.
At home, Tom gets into a conversation with The Wienie King (who rented a different apartment in their building) and is given money so he can fly out to meet Gerry and stop the divorce. Gerry stubbornly tries to help her husband by hooking up with Hackensacker, but Tom’s equally stubborn in his attempt to woo her back. His persistence makes him a lovable hero.
Who will win? The answer is tied up in the opening scene.