The Shop Around the Corner

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The Shop Around the Corner
The Shop Around the Corner - 1940- Poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Produced by Ernst Lubitsch
Screenplay by
Based on Parfumerie 
by Miklós László
Starring
Music by Werner R. Heymann
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Edited by Gene Ruggiero
Production
  company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s)
  • January 12, 1940 (1940-01-12) (USA)
Running time 99 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Shop Around the Corner is a 1940 American romantic comedy film produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, and Frank Morgan. The screenplay was written by Samson Raphaelson based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László.[1][2] Eschewing regional politics in the years leading up to World War II, the film is about two employees at a gift shop in Budapest who can barely stand each another, not realizing they're falling in love as anonymous correspondents through their letters.[1] The Shop Around the Corner is ranked #28 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions, and is listed in Time's All-Time 100 Movies.[3] In 1999, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[4] The supporting cast included Joseph Schildkraut, Sara Haden, Felix Bressart, and William Tracy.[5]

Plot[edit]

Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) is the top salesman at a gift shop in Budapest owned by the high-strung Mr. Hugo Matuschek (Frank Morgan). Kralik's coworkers at Matuschek and Company include his friend, Pirovitch (Felix Bressart), a kindly family man, Ferencz Vadas (Joseph Schildkraut), a two-faced womanizer, and Pepi Katona (William Tracy), an ambitious, precocious delivery boy. One morning, Kralik reveals to Pirovitch that he's been corresponding anonymously with an intelligent and cultured woman whose ad he came across in the newspaper.

Kralik is Mr. Matuschek's oldest and most trusted employee—just invited to a dinner party at Matuschek's home—but lately there has been tension between the two. They get into an argument over Mr. Matuschek's idea to sell a cigarette box that plays "Ochi Chërnye" when opened. Kralik thinks it's a bad idea. Although annoyed with Kralik's stubbornness, Matuschek is reluctant to ignore his judgment. After their exchange, Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) enters the gift shop looking for a job. Kralik tells her there are no openings, but when she is able to sell one of the cigarette boxes (as a candy box), Mr. Matuschek hires her.

As Christmas approaches, Kralik is preparing to finally meet his mystery correspondent for a dinner date. Planning to propose if the date works out, Kralik requests a raise from Mr. Matuschek, who has not been in a good mood for months. Forced to put up with the pesky Miss Novak—the two simply cannot get along—Kralik is grateful that his anonymous correspondent is nothing like her. He admits to Pirovitch that he is nervous about meeting this "most wonderful girl in the world" for the first time.

Kralik's planned meeting is interrupted when Mr. Matuschek demands that everyone stay after work. He and Kralik argue when Kralik mentions his previous engagement. Later Kralik is called into Mr. Matuschek's office—and is fired. No one in the shop understands Mr. Matuschek's actions; they do not know that Mr. Matuschek suspects Kralik of having an affair with his wife. Later, Mr. Matuschek meets with a private investigator who informs him that his suspicions were correct, that his wife is having an affair with one of his employees—Ferencz Vadas. Pepi arrives back at the shop just in time to prevent the distraught Mr. Matuschek from committing suicide.

Meanwhile, Kralik arrives at the Cafe Nizza, where he discovers that his mystery woman, with the red carnation as planned, is in fact Klara Novak. Despite his disappointment, Kralik goes in and talks with her, pretending he is there to meet Pirovitch. In his mind, Kralik tries to reconcile the cultured woman of his letters with his annoying coworker—secretly hoping that things might work out with her. But concerned that Kralik's presence will spoil her first meeting with her "far superior" mystery correspondent, she calls Kralik a "little insignificant clerk" and asks him to leave, and he does.

Later that night, Kralik goes to the hospital to visit Mr. Matuschek. After apologizing for his behavior, Mr. Matuschek offers him a job as manager of Matuschek and Company, gives him the keys to the shop, and asks him to dismiss Vadas quietly. Kralik dismisses Vadas, loudly and publicly including pushing Vadas across the shop floor into a pile of cigarette boxes. Grateful to Pepi for saving his life, Mr. Matuschek promotes the errand boy to clerk. The next day, Miss Novak calls in sick after her mystery man failed to show. That night, Kralik visits her at her apartment, where she reveals her problem to be "psychological". During his visit, she receives a letter from her correspondent and reads it in front of Kralik (who wrote the letter).

Two weeks later, Christmas Eve, Matuschek and Company enjoys records sales; a grateful Mr. Matuschek gives everyone their bonuses and sends them home early. Then, feeling lonely, he tries to get someone to have dinner with him, but all the employees have other plans. Finally, Rudy, the new errand boy who lives alone in the city, agrees. Kralik and Miss Novak, now alone in the shop, talk about their planned dates for the evening and Miss Novak reveals that she had a crush on Kralik when they first met, back when she was foolish and naive. After pretending to have met Miss Novak's mystery man—whom he claims is overweight, balding, and unemployed—Kralik puts a red carnation in his lapel and finally reveals to Miss Novak that he is in fact her mystery correspondent—her "dear friend"—and the two kiss and embrace.

Cast[edit]

James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan

Adaptations[edit]

The Shop Around the Corner was dramatized in two separate half-hour broadcasts of The Screen Guild Theater, first on September 29, 1940 with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart, second on February 26, 1945 with Van Johnson and Phyllis Thaxter. It was also dramatized as a one-hour program on Lux Radio Theater's June 23, 1941 broadcast with Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche.

Remakes[edit]

The film spawned a musical remake, In the Good Old Summertime (1949), which stars Judy Garland and Van Johnson.

The plot element of two people who dislike each other while developing an anonymous romance by correspondence is used in the film You've Got Mail (1998) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, in which one of the protagonists owns a bookstore named "The Shop Around The Corner." Screen credit is given to Nikolaus Laszlo for Parfumerie.

The Broadway musical She Loves Me was also inspired by the film.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ In the musical remake In the Good Old Summertime, an uncredited Charles Smith is one of the quartet singing with Judy Garland at the engagement party.
Citations
  1. ^ a b "The Shop Around the Corner". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ László, Miklós (1957). Parfumerie: a comedy in three acts. M. Liebman Productions, New York. OCLC 31155371
  3. ^ Corliss, Richard; Schickel, Richard (February 12, 2005). "All-Time 100 Movies". Time Inc. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Films Selected to The National Film Registry, 1989-2010". Library of Congress. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Full cast and crew for The Shop Around the Corner". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Streaming audio