The Shop Around the Corner
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Written by Samson Raphaelson based on a play by Miklós László and Ben Hecht (uncredited)
James Stewart is the main character, not at all pretending to be Austrian, but that’s fine because neither is Margaret Sullavan or Frank Morgan. Frank is better known as the wizard from The Wizard of Oz, which will show up later in the list 🙂
This movie was the 1940 fast talking clever comedy that You’ve Got Mail was based on in 1998. As a fan of the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks version it was interesting to me to see the differences and also what was used almost carbon copied from the original. Differences: the couple works in the same shop instead of rival companies, the background story is more about the in house politics than the rival businesses and her being put out of a job. But some of my favourite scenes such as her getting sick and him going to visit, the meet up in the cafe where he sends his best friend in to scout out who it is and of course the lovely ‘I hoped it would be you’ ending are all very much the same.
Margaret Sullavan has a beautiful husky voice, I adore it. I sort of think she’s the forerunner to Scarlett Johansen’s dulcet dusky tones. She’s adorably sassy as well, saying what she thinks about things with no hesitation and an excellent poeticism.
James Stewart is very young here, it’s adorable actually and although I’ve always enjoyed his ‘chewing my own face’ accent it doesn’t seem as pronounced in this film.
The interesting thing I wasn’t expecting was for the rather serious storylines running under the surface of the comedy. Mr Matsuchek starts antagonising Alfred who is perplexed, but it turns out it’s because Mrs Matsuchek is cheating on him and he thinks it’s with Alfred. When he finds out he fired the wrong man and that for sure his wife is cheating on him, he attempts to shoot himself. This happens off screen, with errand boy Pepi running in to stop him, but still, it was quite intense for what is essentially a romantic comedy.
Does it make me love the people? Oh yes. From feeling empathy with them for working in retail, laughing at their jokes and being genuinely concerned when bad things happen this made me care. Due to the time period and the based on a play-ness they aren’t exactly portrayed as naturalistic humans, but I don’t think that really gets in the way of enjoyment. It’s a brilliant movie, and I think there’s a lot of double features of this and You’ve Got Mail in my future, especially when I’m feeling down or sick.
Bechdel test: I thought it had passed very early on with Klara doing an excellent sales pitch on a musical cigarette box to a fine lady but the lady wasn’t named. However later Klara talks to fellow shop girl Ilona about her blouse and how lovely it is so it does pass.
Best line: well, there are lots of good ones, but I feel this sums up the experience of working in customer service:
Woman Customer: How much is that belt in the window, the one that says “2.95?”
Alfred Kralik: $2.95
Woman Customer: Oh, no!
State of Mind: Loved this film, can’t wait to watch it again.