Illustration: Adeline Pericart
It was Clubber Lang who first uttered the immortal words ‘I pity the fool’ when asked if he hated Rocky Balboa by an intrepid journalist seeking to hype up thier impending meeting in the ring. In honour of April we here at Film Ireland challenge Clubber Lang and propose to ‘praise the fool’.
Now bring on the jesters…
The end of The Palm Beach Story
For this April Fool’s day piece I decided to fool around a bit myself and not choose a movie to celebrate. Instead I choose about two minutes from the end of one – Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story. Although the preceding 82 minutes are pretty good too and could have been chosen in their own right, full as they are with clowns, deceptions and fools. Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea are a delight as married couple Tom and Geraldine, married that is until she decides the best thing she can do to help his ailing career is to divorce him and shack up with a millionaire. The millionaire she finds is John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallée), whose physical appearance was surely the inspiration for Tony Curtis’ fictional millionaire in Some Like it Hot. All the Sturges’ trademarks are there: the mix of rapid fire dialogue and anarchic slapstick, moments of unexpected tenderness, his regular supporting players (mostly crammed together in a crowded Pullman car), and the continuation of his one-man assault on the Hays Code.
Sturges’ career is testimony to the overvaluation of discipline and restraint, but even he’s pushing it with an absurd, audacious, not-really-non-sequitur ending. You’d swear he was having a laugh at your expense, that it was some kind of great, mad prank, or that in the dying moments if a deadline he thought ‘to hell with it’ and threw down the first thing that came into his head. You may feel a bit like the victim of a practical joke, but like all really good practical jokes you’ll be laughing as hard as anyone else.