If we disregard the fact that I’ve already reviewed two Fellini pictures as being the first time this happened, then I suddenly feel that this blog has somehow made a little circle in a strange but interesting way. In one of the first films that I reviewed, Gosford Park, Bob Balaban’s character was a Hollywood producer making a new Charlie Chan film and in the role of the maid, he was interested in casting Claudette Colbert. He was very concerned as to whether she was “British or just affected”. Well, in the film I just watched, The Palm Beach Story, Claudette Colbert was one of the stars. I just wish my blog could have done this little trick in a film that I enjoyed more than this one.
The film follows the story of Gerry Jeffers (Colbert) and her husband Tom (Joel McRae). Tom is a failing architect and they are about to get kicked out of their apartment for not being able to pay the rent. Gerry comes up with a rather novel idea. She’s going to divorce Gerry and move to Palm Beach so that she can meet a wealthy man and marry him for his money so that she can support Tom. She finally meets this wealthy man in the form of John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee), one of the richest men in the world, along with his trampy sister, the Princess Centimillia.
The concept of the film is actually pretty funny. And I was hoping that I would enjoy this film more. Unfortunately, it just isn’t particulary funny for the vast majority of the film. There’s a hell of a lot of talking but no one is saying anything funny. However, the film is saved from utter mediocrity by a couple of scenes that are just absolutely hilarious, especially the scene on a train where a group of rich men in a hunting club get extremely drunk and start shooting their shotguns and forming a posse on the train. It was just so absurd that it was hilarious. Also, Rudy Vallee is a delight as the rich billionaire. There was just something very understated and dry about his performance. I could care less about her acting but Claudette Colbert herself is a knock out. One last complaint about the film. There are some African-American characters in the film. And lordy was their presentation just absolutely, ridiculously racist. For a minute, I thought I had put in The Birth of a Nation or Song of the South.
Final Score: C+