It's generally acknowledged that Preston Sturges — the first major Hollywood screenwriter to ascend to the director's chair — was on an extraordinary creative roll from 1940 to 1944. During this period he made eight features for Paramount: five masterpieces, two good, and one ("The Great Moment") so strange it defies labeling. The third of the masterpieces was "The Palm Beach Story," a raucous screwball comedy with some of the sliest sexual innuendo to make it past the moral watchdogs.
Claudette Colbert plays a woman who runs off to the title resort area to find a rich husband, even though she's already married to broke inventor Joel McCrea. He follows her, and they become the love objects of a pair of super-rich siblings (Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor).
Criterion has packaged a clean transfer on Blu-ray, with a small selection of supplements. Scholar James Harvey talks for 16 minutes about the film's position in Sturges' canon; comedian Bill Hader also expresses his love for the film for about 10 minutes. There is also a 30-minute radio abridgment with Colbert and Vallee participating, and Randolph Scott sitting in for McCrea. Unbilled is Mel Blanc, replacing Robert Dudley as the Texas Wienie King, giving the character Elmer Fudd's voice.
Finally, there's a real curiosity — "Safeguarding Military Information," a 12-minute short Sturges made for the Signal Corps, about how blabbing can damage the war effort. The opening crawl mentions Pearl Harbor, and the film is dated 1941, so it must have been made on a very tight schedule. No actors are billed, but the cast includes Sturges favorite Eddie Bracken, Ginger Rogers, Walter Huston and Tom Fadden, a character actor you've never heard of but would immediately recognize.
The Palm Beach Story (Criterion, Blu-ray, $39.95; DVD, $29.95)