For, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015

Fans of old movies know filmmaker Preston Sturges as the guy that wrote and directed one hilarious screwball comedy after another in the 1930s and '40s, including "Easy Living," "The Great McGinty," "Christmas in July," "The Lady Eve," "Sullivan's Travels," "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek," "Hail the Conquering Hero," "Unfaithfully Yours" — and our subject for today, "The Palm Beach Story" (1942, b/w).

This one has been available since the days of VHS but now it gets a Criterion Collection upgrade in a new Blu-ray/DVD release that includes a gorgeous print of the film and new featurettes featuring interviews from two Sturges lovers, film historian James Harvey and comic/actor Bill Hader.

There's also a World War II propaganda short written by Sturges and an audio-only radio adaptation of the film.

But if none of that matters, forget it and just watch the movie. "The Palm Beach Story" is hilarious.

Claudette Colbert is Gerry and Joel MCrea is Tom, a pair of young marrieds whose relationship is rocky because their finances have taken a dive, thanks to Tom's various business ventures.

Even though she loves Tom, Gerry runs off to Palm Beach, Florida, where she plans to divorce him and marry a millionaire who can finance his projects. But, as you might expect, things don't go as planned.


    Joel McCrea, left, Claudette Colbert, Rudy Vallee

Tom pursues her, even after Gerry links up with millionaire John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee) and his sister (Mary Astor), who set their sights on the pair — not realizing they're married, of course.

And merry romantic mix-ups abound.

One of the things at which Sturges excelled, besides fast-paced comic chicanery, artful slapstick and witty wisecracks, was in the casting of every role, right down to the smallest supporting character, and his films had plenty of those.

"The Palm Beach Story" is no exception, with an array of zany characters embodied by such wonderful secondary players as Sig Arno, Robert Dudley (as the Wienie King), Franklin Pangborn and many more.

If "The Palm Beach Story" is one of those movies you've skipped over in your Netflix queue, you've missed a real treat.  Take it in and laugh yourself silly.