(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#39) The Palm Beach Story
Comedy • dir. Preston Sturges • 1942 • USA
In the space of a little over five years, Preston Sturges wrote and directed The Great McGinty (1940), The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan’s Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944), and Hail the Conquering Hero (1944). If you’re a fan of his work you really do have to wonder – can any other filmmaker claim such an extraordinary and prolific purple patch? John Ford, maybe? Alfred Hitchcock? Woody Allen at his very best? For sure, it’s a vanishingly small group of contenders. What must Sturges have been like? Busy, I would venture. And, also, I like to think, the rare sort of fellow who is brilliant in much the same way lesser mortals are short, handsome, or dim. Only someone naturally fast and nimble could ever hope to make – and quickly – movies so chockfull of gusto and wit.
I was smitten right from the get-go, since I first saw The Lady Eve during my first ever trip to New York. In the afternoon, aged 18 and someplace in the Village – a few bucks for a ticket, and change enough out a ten for a “homemade” cookie too. Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, some caper on a cruise ship, disguises, pratfalls, and romance… if there’s room in life for this, then count me in! The Palm Beach Story I like even more. For its confusion, mayhem, and mischief. Its crazy schemes, quick talking, and double-dealing. Its identical twins and eccentric millionaires. And lines like, “You have no idea what a long-legged woman can do without doing anything.” No word of a lie: I want someday to have a son and name him Preston Curtis.