The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 11, 2015 by  


“The Palm Beach Story” is a definitive Preston Sturges film.  Maybe not as clear cut in its portrayal of romance but the fillm remains to be a hilarious and enjoyable film over 70-years later.  The film has never looked this much better until now on Blu-ray thanks to the Criterion Collection.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1942 Paramount Pictures Inc. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742


DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, English Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH


RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2015

Directed by Preston Sturges

Written by Preston Sturges

Executive Producer: John Hart, Ted Hope

Produced by Christine Vachon, Lauren Zalaznick

Music by Ed Tomney

Cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy

Edited by James Lyons

Casting by Jakki Fink

Art Direction by Anthony Stabley

Set Decoration by Mary E. Gullickson

Costume Design by Nancy Steiner


Claudette Colbert as Gerry Jeffers

Joel McCrea as Tom Jeffers

Mary Astor as The Princess Centimillia

Rudy Vallee as J.D. Hackensacker III

Sig Arno as Toto

Robert Warwick as Mr. Hinch

Arthur Stuart Hull as Mr. OSmond

Torben Meyer as Dr. Kluck

This wild tale of wacky wedlock from Preston Sturges takes off like a rocket and never lets up. Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert play Tom and Gerry, a married New York couple on the skids, financially and romantically. With Tom hot on her trail, Gerry takes off for Florida on a mission to solve the pair’s money troubles, which she accomplishes in a highly unorthodox manner. A mix of the witty and the utterly absurd, The Palm Beach Story is a high watermark of Sturges’s brand of physical comedy and verbal repartee, featuring sparkling performances from its leads as well as hilarious supporting turns from Rudy Vallee and Mary Astor as a brother and a sister ensnared in Tom and Gerry’s high jinks.


Preston Sturges will forever be known as one of the great directors of Hollywood’s Screwball comedies.

Known for “The Great McGinty” (1940), “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941), “The Lady Eve” (1941) and “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (1944), Sturges is also beloved for his 1942 Screwball comedy “The Palm Beach Story”.

The film would star Claudette Colbert (“It Happened One N ight”, “Since You Went Away”, “Drums Along the Mohawk”), Joel McCrea (“Sullivan’s Travels”, “The Most Dangerous Game”, “Foreign Correspondent”), Mary Astor (“The Maltese Falcon”, “Meet Me in St. Louis”) and Rudy Vallee (“Bonnie and Clyde”, “Miller’s Crossing”).

A popular Screwball comedy classic for fans, the film has now received the Criterion Collection treatment and will be released on Blu-ray in January 2015.

“The Palm Beach Story” begins with showing us a newly married couple, Tom and Gerry Jeffers (portrayed by Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert) and the words, “And they lived happily ever after.  Or did they?”.

The film flashforwards five years later and the couple are now having financial difficulties and affecting their marriage.

The Jeffers are about to lose their home as they are behind on rent and owe various people money.  As the business owner known as the “Wienie King” (portrayed by Robert Dudley) takes a look at the apartment for rent, he runs into the apartment inhabitant, Gerry Jeffers.  Seeing that she needs money, the wealthy man gives her the money to pay off her rent and for her to purchase new clothes.

Meanwhile, Tom is trying to pitch his idea to an investor for his airport idea (involving steel mesh wires on airplanes) but has had no luck selling his idea so far.

As Tom comes back home and tries to sneak in, he is surprised to hear that the rent has been paid.  When he goes to see his wife, he finds out that all their debt has been paid and doesn’t understand why an old man would give her $700.  Jealous, he wonders why an old man would give his wife so much money and wondered if something happened behind-the-scenes, the two get into an argument but manage to apologize and have one more night together.

Still upset where their relationship has gone, Gerry wants to leave Tom, but Tom loves her and doesn’t want her to leave.

But Gerry manages to leave her husband and heads off to Palm Beach, Florida and through her adventures riding a train to Florida, she meets one of the wealthiest men in America, John D. Hackensacker III (portrayed by Rudy Vallee) who has taken a liking to her.

Can money buy one’s happiness?  Will Gerry be with this new man she met or will her love for Tom make her want to stay with her husband?


“The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as the 4K restoration brings out the clarity of the film.  I happen to own the original Preston Sturges DVD set and the whites and grays are well-contrast and is much sharper.  Closeups feature so much more detail that you can see clothing fabric much more clearly and looks so much better when compared to the Universal Studios Home Entertainment DVD.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a 35 mm nitrate fine-grain and safety duplicate negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, were used for small dirt, grain, noise management and jitter.”


As for audio, “The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742” is presented in English LPCM 1.0. The monaural lossless soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic soundtrack. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.


“The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742” comes with the following special features:

  • James Harvey on Sturges – (16:52) James Harvey on the career of Preston Sturges.
  • Bill Hader on Sturges – (9:39) “Saturday Night Live” comedian Bill Hader discusses what he enjoys about Preston Sturges films and comparing the writing to SNL.
  • Radio Adaptation – (29:19) The Screen Guild Theater radio athnology series broadcasted on March 15, 1943 featuring Claudette Colbert, Randolph Scott and Rudy Vallee.
  • Safeguarding Military Information – (11:34) A 1941 short film written by Preston Sturges and distributed by the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry.


“The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742” comes with a five-page insert with the essay “Love in a Warm Climate” by Stephanie Zacharek


Preston Sturges has created a rollercoaster wave of films.  Some that are brilliant and hilarious, others not as much.

But the fact is that despite a wonderful career that made him one of the richest men in America, he was also one of the most successful directors in Hollywood, problem was, his relationship with Paramount execs were souring.  He would focus his attention to an engineering company and his restaurant and nightclub, The Players but despite having beloved films that many respect and love today, the fact is that Sturges films were not always big moneymakers for the studios.

While 1941 was a notable year for the release of “The Lady Eve” and “Sullivan’s Travels”, his 1942 film “The Palm Beach Story” is another fan favorite within the Screwball comedy genre.

Casting popular actress Claudette Colbert and reuniting with actor Joel McCrea, the film “The Palm Beach Story” puts a spin on the wedding fairytale of “Happily Ever After”.  Even in 1942, not all films end with a happy ending.

The film is like one long and hilarious adventure that to this day, having watched the films many times and trying to see if I missed out on a scene, possibly to decode the opening sequence as it doesn’t make any sense, nor do we get a resolution to it, all we know is that the Tom and Gerry Jeffers are experiencing financial struggles in their relationship.

Behind on bills, Gerry decides to leave her husband in hopes that they could start over and possibly, Tom would have more success without her.  But the fact is Tom loves her, while Gerry leaves him.

A woman who appreciates the glitz and glamour, she is a bombshell that men like to watch and fortunately for her, during her travels on the bus while leaving her husband, she comes in contact with one of the richest men in America, John D. Hackensacker III (a parody of John D. Rockefeller) and by luck, the two end up hanging out with each other and while he is attracted to this bold and blunt woman, she sees the potential of getting closer to him and maybe using his money to pay for Tom’s failed airline idea.

Claudette Colbert is one of America’s top comedy actresses and as much as many loved her in Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” eight years earlier, she still manages to look gorgeous, emits her sex appeal and wins the viewer for her performance as a bold, blunt golddigger.

In fact, the film rides on her shoulders as most of the film takes us on an adventure as we follow Gerry Jeffers escaping her husband and using her sex appeal in front of many men and eventually winning the attention of a very wealthy man.

The dialogue is quick and funny, the unexpected decisions made by the characters are surprising and its ending surprises us.  And while watching the film again and again, we are surprised by the film’s prologue and trying to find out if the ending is in anyway connected to the beginning of the film.

Something that we’ll probably never know.

But we leave watching this film entertained as the experience was so much worth it.

As for the Blu-ray release, I have owned the previous Preston Sturges DVD set release and comparing the two, the Blu-ray looks amazing with great contrast and sharpness but the film looks so much better.  And the lossless soundtrack is clear without any hiss or crackle.

As for special features, we get an interesting featurette about Sturges’ career, comedian Bill Hader’s take on Sturges’ writing, also a radio adaptation of the film plus a war short which Sturges had created.

Overall, “The Palm Beach Story” is a definitive Preston Sturges film.  Maybe not as clear cut in its portrayal of romance but the fillm remains to be a hilarious and enjoyable film over 70-years later.  The film has never looked this much better until now on Blu-ray thanks to the Criterion Collection.  Recommended!

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