THE PALM BEACH STORY DIR. PRESTON STURGES
TWO FILMS in the same genre and by the same director. Sullivan's Travels is a classic, about a director who has made a fortune making popular comedies with titles such as Ant in Pants and So Long, Sarong. He decides next to do an artful, more considered movie about the depression. Studio bosses question how he can make a film like this when he knows nothing about homeless people, so he goes undercover as a hobo - and a comedy of errors begins.
Eventually, he gets arrested and put on a chain-gang. When the gang is invited to see a Mickey Mouse cartoon, everyone is laughing and he realises that making comedies is not so bad after all.
The Palm Beach Story is a classic screwball comedy about a husband and wife for whom things are not going well. The woman goes to Palm Beach to get a quickie divorce.
I want to give Sturges props, which in the States is a gangster term for proper respect. Both films are funny and don't hit you over the head with the message. Sturges was also a writer, so his films are dialogue- and story-based. For instance, people talk really quickly, like in real life.
These are examples of the kind of film Hollywood is no longer able to make. They are light stories with great dialogue. When Hollywood makes a screwball comedy nowadays, it must have a karaoke scene. Well, I have never been in a bar when people spontaneously start to sing. These films were made during the depression, when the world needed screwball comedy. Now it is all gross-out comedies such as Something About Mary. I don't think we will watch them in 50 years.