Monday, July 4, 2016

Movie Review: The Shop Around the Corner (1940)


The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan
supporting cast: Frank Morgan

In a fit of boredom, I've begun watching classic films again. I was just fortunate enough to find a James Stewart collection of movies during one of my last trips to the store and it just happened to include The Shop Around the Corner. I vaguely remembered this little title from several years ago,but nothing really stood out to me. So I decided to pay $2.50 for it so I could watch it again, without suffering through the bother of a scratched library disc. Talk about a great purchase!

For fans of classic cinema, The Shop Around the Corner is also known as being the 1st in a line of remakes: In the Good Old Summertime (1949) starring Van Johnson and Judy Garland and, of course, You've Got Mail (1998) starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.


Based on a Hungarian theatrical play from 1937, The Shop Around the Corner takes place in Budapest and, remarkably, has nothing to do with World War II. Instead, it follows the love lives of two shop employees, Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) and Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan). Each of them has been a letter correspondent to an individual who placed an advertisement in the newspaper desiring to correspond about social, literary, and intellectual interests. Naturally, the two are corresponding with one another! A fact made more amusing because in real life they're coworkers and can't stand each other!

The supporting cast includes: Frank Morgan (The Wizard of Oz), Felix Bressart, Joseph Schildkraut, William Tracy, and Sara Haden. A fine collection of actors offering both additional comic relief and serious drama and the reality of pain involved with infidelity.


There's something so utterly romantic about true love developing through letters. There is so much power in the written word. So much potential to share an intimate part of oneself so completely that the other person knows you fully. That is the love story in The Shop Around the Corner. Alfred and Klara dislike one another, sort of, in the real world, but that's only because the intimacy they've shared on the written page is not the same sort of intimacy one shares in the everyday, with coworkers and acquaintances. It's no wonder that neither of them suspected the other was their letter correspondent. In the day-to-day encounters, all they saw was the external while the letters allowed a glimpse of the internal. Two entirely different things.


Every once in awhile, classic Hollywood really delivered a winner . . . like The Shop Around the Corner. If you're at all familiar with James Stewart than you know he thrives on sharp, snappy dialogue. After all, he was my favorite part of The Philadelphia Story. So if there's one thing Samson Raphaelson is able to deliver it's that snappy dialogue associated with sophisticated romantic comedies of the eras. The pairing of Raphaelson' script and Stewart's acting is supremely brilliant. Frank Morgan remains a long-time favorite of mine, every since I saw him as the wizard in The Wizard of Oz. As for Margaret Sullavan, I've never seen her in any other role, but I liked her performance well enough that I want to test some of her other roles.


I honestly couldn't tell you why I didn't care for The Shop Around the Corner the first time I saw it, but I can say that I love it now. It's one of the most vibrant and delightful films of that transitional period between the 1930s and 1940s, a gem delivered by director Ernst Lubitsch.

While I already know this version is my favorite of the 3 films made from this story, I'll be watching In the Good Old Summertime and You've Got Mail sometime in the next couple of months, so stay tuned.

And if you've never seen The Shop Around the Corner, there's no time like the present! ❤ 

13 comments:

  1. Cute movie. Haven't seen it in awhile, but it's included in my Blu Ray of "You've Got Mail," so I do own it. ;)

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    1. I remember liking "You've Got Mail" a lot, but it'll be interesting rewatching the "other" remake. I recall that I didn't care for it all that much, which is weird because I love Judy Garland. I bet there was too much singing.

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  2. Great review Carissa! I admit, I don't watch nearly as many classic films as I should, but I did see this one, and was surprised that I liked it even more than You've Got Mail! Jimmy Stewart is great, and I liked how it felt a little bit like a play. And like you said the romance was great. It came through better than in You've Got Mail I think. I didn't know about In The Good Old Summertime though! I guess I'll be staying tuned to heard if it's any good! :D

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    1. Thanks! This one's a fun little movie and I'm so glad you're familiar with it! I vaguely recall liking "You've Got Mail", but it's been a lot of years since I've seen it. It'll be fun doing some rewatching!

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  3. Been meaning to watch this forever, since I love 'You've Got Mail'. Glad to hear it's good!

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    1. Yep, it is quite a delightful little film. I especially love the quaint setting. Hope you enjoy it!

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  4. Hi Carissa, I was wondering if you are still participating in the Olivia de Havilland Blogathon? It concluded yesterday but I will be happy to add your posts if you still want to write them. Thanks!

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    1. Goodness, I forgot all about it! I'll check what I signed up for and see if it's something I need to rewatch or can just write from memory. If it's from memory, I might be able to get a post done. Thanks for reminding me!

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  5. It's been eons since last I saw this one (in fact, maybe I've only seen it once), but I do remember thinking it was cute. My family went through a watch-all-the-Jimmy-Stewart movies when I was a pre- and young teen, so yeah, we've seen a lot of his. :)

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    1. Yep, it is very cute. Jimmy Stewart is one of the best Hollywood actors, so diverse, and with such expression in his voice. I've been watching his movies lately and remembering how very much I love his filmography!

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  6. So, I adore You've Got Mail, have since I saw it in theaters way back when. Naturally, loving Jimmy Stewart as I do, I wanted to see the original. And I didn't like it much at all. But you say you didn't care for it the first time either, so perhaps I should try it again! Wonder if my library has it...

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    1. Awww, how cool you got to see You've Got Mail in the theater! I've only seen it once, but remember liking it a great deal.

      I think perhaps I was too young for my first viewing of The Shop Around the Corner. Now that I'm older I can sense Jimmy Stewart's tenderness underlying the gruffness. I liked it so very much more with this second viewing, I was sort of surprised. If you do try it again, I hope you enjoy it!

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    2. One of the advantages of being old, isn't it? I saw it over Christmas break from college with my parents, I believe. And many, many times since then.

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