AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Palm Beach Story
Alternate Title: Is That Bad?
Director: Preston Sturges (Dir)
Release Date:   1942
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 10 Dec 1942
Production Date:   24 Nov 1941--13 Jan 1942
Duration (in mins):   88 or 90
Duration (in feet):   8,356
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Claudette Colbert (Gerry Jeffers)  
    Joel McCrea (Tom Jeffers)  
    Mary Astor (The Princess [Maud] Centimillia)  
    Rudy Vallee (J. [John] D. Hackensacker, III)  
    Sig Arno (Toto)  
    Robert Warwick (Mr. Hinch)  
    Arthur Stuart Hull (Mr. Osmond)  
    Torben Meyer (Dr. Kluck)  
    Jimmy Conlin (Mr. Asweld)  
    Victor Potel (Mr. McKeewie)  
    William Demarest (First member Ale and Quail Club)  
    Jack Norton (Second member Ale and Quail Club)  
    Robert Greig (Third member Ale and Quail Club)  
    Rosco Ates (Fourth member Ale and Quail Club)  
    Dewey Robinson (Fifth member Ale and Quail Club)  
    Chester Conklin (Sixth member Ale and Quail Club)  
    Sheldon Jett (Seventh member Ale and Quail Club)  
    Robert Dudley (Wienie King)  
    Franklin Pangborn (Manager)  
    Arthur Hoyt (Pullman conductor)  
    Alan Bridge (Conductor)  
    Snowflake (Black bartender)  
    Charles R. Moore (Black porter)  
    Frank Moran (Brakeman)  
    Harry Rosenthal (Orchestra leader)  
    Esther Howard (Wife of Wienie King)  
    Howard Mitchell (Man in apartment)  
    George Anderson (The Gent)  
    Harry Hayden (Prospect)  
    Monte Blue (Doorman)  
    Esther Michelson (Near-sighted woman)  
    Edward McNamara (Officer in Penn Station)  
    Harry Tyler (Gateman at Penn Station)  
    Mantan Moreland (Waiter in diner)  
    Keith Richards (Shoe salesman)  
    Odette Myrtil (French saleslady)  
    Julius Tannen (Proprietor of store)  
    Byron Foulger (Jewelry salesman)  
    Lillian Randolph (Maid on train)  
    Frank Faylen (Taxi driver)  
    J. Farrell MacDonald (O'Donnell)  
    Laurie Douglas (Maid in Princess' room)  
    John Holland (Best man)  
    George Melford (Fatherly man at wedding)  
    Max Wagner (Rough-looking comic)  
    Wilson Benge (Steward)  
    Bess Flowers (Maid of honor)  
    Marcelle Corday (Elderly maid)  
    Alfred Hall (Bishop)  

Summary: A bride and groom are inexplicably prevented from attending their wedding by their exact doubles, who then marry. Six years later, Tom and Gerry Jeffer's Park Avenue apartment manager shows their apartment to prospective tenants while they are still in residence because they are behind in rent. An elderly sausage manufacturer, known as the "Wienie King," who is looking at the apartment is so smitten by Gerry that he gives her $700 to pay all the bills. Gerry is tired of being broke and is doubly frustrated because Tom, a struggling architect, has continually rejected her attempts to use her beauty to get financial backers for his projects. Although she is still in love with Tom, Gerry so firmly believes that she has held her husband back that she leaves him, despite his earnest efforts to deter her. At Pennsylvania Station, Gerry uses her feminine wiles to get The Ale and Quail Club, a men's hunting club that has reserved an entire car, to buy her a ticket on the train headed for Palm Beach, Florida. The Club proves too rowdy, however, and after the men shoot out the windows she escapes into a sleeper car, where she accidentally breaks John D. Hackensacker III's spectacles while climbing into the upper berth. In the morning, Gerry discovers that the conductors have disconnected the Club's car because of their unruliness and have thereby left her without her suitcase. John, one of the wealthiest men in the world, takes an interest in Gerry and disembarks with her in Jacksonville, Florida. There the normally frugal multimillionaire takes pleasure in buying Gerry an entire wardrobe of extravagant clothes and a ruby bracelet. Gerry is thrilled when she discovers she has made the acquaintance of one of the richest men in the world, and accompanies him on his yacht to Palm Beach. When she sees Tom waiting at the dock for her, Gerry introduces him as her brother, "Captain McGloo." John's sister, the much-divorced Princess Maud Centimillia, who is ready to discard yet another suitor, Toto, immediately makes advances toward Tom. Gerry and Tom stay at the Hackensacker mansion, and while John woos Gerry, Maud woos Tom. Gerry, meanwhile, successfully interests John in becoming a financial backer of Tom's plans for a suspended airport. One evening, John, who has fallen in love with Gerry, serenades her underneath her balcony to the accompaniment of an orchestra, not realizing that he is providing the romantic background for Gerry and Tom to reunite. The next morning, Gerry gently rejects John's marriage proposal and reveals to a stunned John and Maud that she and Tom are not brother and sister, but are husband and wife. Always pragmatic, John vows to fulfill his commitment as a backer for Tom's project, and he and Maud are delighted when they learn that Tom and Gerry have twin siblings. A joint marriage soon takes place. 

Production Company: Paramount Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Preston Sturges (Dir)
  Hal Walker (Asst dir)
Producer: B. G. DeSylva (Exec prod)
  Paul Jones (Assoc prod)
Writer: Preston Sturges (Wrt by)
  Ernst Laemmle (Contr wrt)
Photography: Victor Milner (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Hans Dreier (Art dir)
  Ernst Fegté (Art dir)
Film Editor: Stuart Gilmore (Ed)
Set Decoration: Sam Comer (Set dresser)
  Oscar Lau (Props)
Costumes: Irene (Miss Colbert's gowns by)
Music: Victor Young (Mus score)
Sound: Harry Lindgren (Sd rec)
  Walter Oberst (Sd rec)
  Howard Joslin (Sd crew)
Dance: Sam Ledner (Dance dir)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup artist)
  Leonora Sabine (Hair supv)
Production Misc: Frank Caffey (Unit mgr)
  Harold Schwartz (Prod asst)
  Marie Morris (Prod secy)
Country: United States

Music: Overture to the opera William Tell by Gioacchino Antonio Rossini; "Wedding March" by Felix Mendelssohn.
Songs: "Isn't It Romantic," music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; "You're the Flower of My Heart, Sweet Adeline," music by Harry Armstrong, lyrics by Richard H. Gerard; "Good Night, Sweetheart," music and lyrics by Ray Noble, James Campbell and Reginald Connelly, arranged by Walter Scharf; "A-Hunting We Will Go," traditional, arranged by Phil Moore.
Composer: Harry Armstrong
  James Campbell
  Reginald Connelly
  Richard H. Gerard
  Lorenz Hart
  Felix Mendelssohn
  Phil Moore
  Ray Noble
  Richard Rodgers
  Gioacchino Antonio Rossini
  Walter Scharf

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Pictures, Inc. 2/11/1942 dd/mm/yyyy LP11763 Yes

PCA NO: 7983
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

Genre: Screwball comedy
Subjects (Major): Brothers and sisters
  Fortune hunters
  Impersonation and imposture
Subjects (Minor): Apartments
  Men's clubs
  New York City--Park Avenue
  Palm Beach (FL)
  Pennsylvania Station (New York City)
  Proposals (Marital)
  Train conductors

Note: The working titles of this film were Is Marriage Necessary and Is That Bad? . The following written inscription appears after the wedding sequences at the beginning and end of this film: "And they lived happily ever after/or did they?" The opening wedding montage, which seems to make little sense, is somewhat explained in the final wedding scene, but its significance has been debated at length in modern sources. The title Is Marriage Necessary? , which was the name of Preston Sturges' original story, was rejected by the PCA. According to correspondence in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, the PCA initially rejected the script for The Palm Beach Story because of the "sex suggestive situations...and dialogue." Despite repeated alterations made to the script in Nov 1941, the PCA continued to protest the "light treatment of marriage and divorce" in the story, and the similarity between the character "John D. Hackensacker III" and American industrialist John D. Rockefeller. The filmmakers complied with some of the concerns of the PCA by altering specific lines which seemed too suggestive and by reducing "Princess Maud's" unsuccessful marriages from eight to three, plus two annulments. Information in the Preston Sturges Collection at the UCLA Special Collections Library reveals that Ina Claire and Curt Bois were considered for roles in this film. Although Rudy Vallee had appeared in many previous films, "John D. Hackensacker III" is considered his first comedic role. According to modern sources, Paramount signed Vallee to a contract as a result of his performance in this film. The Palm Beach Story was Joel McCrea's second picture for Sturges, although his first, Sullivan's Travels , was not released until shortly after this one. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   7 Nov 1942.   
Daily Variety   3 Nov 42   p. 3.
Film Daily   2 Nov 42   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Nov 42   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   7 Nov 42   p. 993.
New York Times   11 Dec 42   p. 33.
Variety   4 Nov 42   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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