The Palm Beach Story

I was glad that it was not raining when I set out to go to work. We were short-handed for reasons I didn’t know, so I had to work hard. I requested a day off on the day after the Super Bowl. I have to make plans for the day of the game. I guess it’s possible that the Super Bowl is the last NFL game I’ll ever attend. I was glad to leave work and take the bus over to Trader Joe’s before I went home. It started to rain, so I really didn’t feel like going out to the Grand Lake Theatre to see “The Hateful Eight” again. I watched “The Palm Beach Story” again. It was a reminder of why I’ve liked Preston Sturges so much over the years. Many of his characters are wealthy, but with an offbeat view of life. Besides, they are balanced by the couple struggling with money. Joel McCrea is Tom, the inventor who is unable to make any money from his ideas, and Claudette Colbert is his wife Gerry. They encounter the Wienie King, who thinks nothing of handing over the cash for them to go to Palm Beach. Maybe it’s a bit too much of a coincidence that they should run into very wealthy people along their way through this story, even for a screwball comedy. Joel McCrea is the perfect Sturges protagonist, and I wonder why I don’t see actors like this in the movies today. I kept thinking throughout this movie that it was a time before cell phones and social media, and it was a good thing too that the latest Star Wars movie didn’t have any of that crap. We actually see a character named Toto in the movie who is not a dog. Mary Astor had a big role and was quite good in it. After “The Maltese Falcon,” I’m not sure that I could picture her in a comedy, but I thought that she was quite amusing. I thought that perhaps the funniest moment was Gerry introducing Tom as “Captain McGlue.” Even after all these years, I don’t see any screenwriters coming up with such a nutty and hilarious idea as this. Hardly anyone is able to use words well. I liked the train full of characters headed by William Demarest, too. The way that this group befriended Gerry was reminiscent of “Ball of Fire.” I really took a lot of pleasure in seeing this movie again. It didn’t have some of the uncomfortable qualities that were in comedies like “Trainwreck” or “The Night Before.” The comedy in “The Palm Beach Story” involves deception, and it is surprising how abruptly that is resolved. Sturges also comes up with a truly screwball ending, something appropriately wacky for this movie. It nearly makes sense when you consider the crazy and mysterious beginning of the picture. Of the movies Joel McCrea did after “The Palm Beach Story,” I remember him most for “Ride the High Country.” He died in 1990, three weeks after making a public appearance at a Pete Wilson fundraiser. Besides “The Palm Beach Story,” I can recall Claudette Colbert only in “It Happened One Night” and “The Egg and I.” She died in 1996 at age 92. She couldn’t go on forever, even though everyone in those Capra films seemed immortal. Mary Astor, of course, was unforgettable in “The Maltese Falcon,” but she won an Oscar for “The Great Lie.” Her last movie was “Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte” in 1964, and she died in 1987 at age 81. I think that my two favorite Preston Sturges films are “The Lady Eve” and “Hail the Conquering Hero.” I miss those days when I could catch a Preston Sturges double feature at the UC Theatre. His last great movie was “Unfaithfully Yours” in 1948. Preston Sturges directed a movie with Betty Grable and Cesar Romero, called “The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend” in 1949. What a difference seven years made in Sturges’ career. He was 60 years old when he died in 1959. The DVD had a feature that had Bill Hader talking about the script of “The Palm Beach Story.” He mentioned the influence that Sturges had on the Coen brothers. I wondered what the factors of his decline were. Did he simply run out of ideas? The thought is disturbing as I get older and approach the age that Sturges was when he died. You spend years developing your abilities and talent, only to see it all fade with time and age. I saw that “The China Syndrome” was on one of the movie channels. It looked good on high definition television, but I didn’t want to watch it from the middle. Jane Fonda was a top actress at that time, and it was funny to see Michael Douglas as a cameraman. I thought it was sad to see Jack Lemmon as I remembered hearing the news of his death in 2001. I saw that Night Court is on the Antenna TV schedule. My brother used to like watching that show. John Astin was in one of the episodes. I like how Antenna TV is now showing old Johnny Carson shows because I can’t stand most of the current late night talk shows. I waited to see if the new Supergirl episode would be any good, but that meant leaving the television on to Judge Judy, and I can barely stand watching that program. I turned on the record player and listened to the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” and Natalie Cole’s “Unpredictable.” I thought back to the days when “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” was a big hit on the radio. I felt that 1977 was a good time in my life. I saw Charles Nelson Reilly on the Johnny Carson show. “Eyewitness” was another movie that was on the television. Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt were in it, along with Christopher Plummer. I think I lost track of William Hurt over the years after he was in “The Accidental Tourist.” Did I ever really like watching him, even in movies like “Body Heat” or “Kiss of the Spider Woman”? In a fight between William Hurt and Christopher Plummer in 1981, I think that I would choose Christopher Plummer, who wasn’t so far removed from that Pink Panther movie at the time. Morgan Freeman was a cop. James Woods was in there somewhere. Some of the people who died on January 5 include Calvin Coolidge (1933), George Washington Carver (1943), Charles Mingus (1979), Hans Conried (1982), Pete Maravich (1988), Sonny Bono (1998), and Jean Kerr (2003). Today is a birthday for Pamela Sue Martin (63), Diane Keaton (70), Charlie Rose (74), Hayao Miyazaki (75), and Robert Duvall (85).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for January 5, Bozo the Clown made his television debut on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles in 1959.  In 1979, Prince and his band made their live debut at the Capri Theatre in Minneapolis.  In 1980, KC and the Sunshine Band had the Number One single, “Please Don’t Go.”  George Reeves was born 101 years ago today.

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