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The Shop Around The Corner

The Shop Around The Corner

By Patrick Samuel • December 10th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (MOVIE)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Original release: January 12, 1940
Running time: 99 minutes

Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Writes: Ben Hecht, Samson Raphaelson, Miklós László

Cast: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart

The Shop Around The Corner

Have you ever had the misfortune of working with someone who just gets on your nerves? I think that’s something a lot of us have had some experience with. That co-worker who gossips at every opportunity or the boss who’s never satisfied with your efforts, or even the colleague who keeps taking sick days, leaving you cover more times than you care to count…

Based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie, The Shop Around The Corner is set around Christmas time in pre-war Budapest where co-workers Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) and Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) are struggling to get along. They’re constantly bickering with each other but outside of work the pair enjoy a pen-pal relationship but don’t realise it’s with each other!

Hailed as a classic and persevered by the Library of Congress as one of the films which are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, The Shop Around The Corner represents an era in cinema when stars like James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan shone because of their charisma and chemistry and because the dialogue sparkled.

Director Ernst Lubitsch was so set on having James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as his stars that he delayed filming until they were both available to do the movie. Cary Grant or Gary Cooper might have been good choices for Alfred, but the character needed to express a certain insecurity and anxiety which Stewart does so well. As for Klara, the role called for an actress who could antagonise her leading man in the most charming way, we could think of Judy Holliday in such a role, but it would’ve been far too obvious. Sullavan plays it in just the right amounts especially in the scene where she tries to take a night off by sweet-talking her not-too-impressed co-worker and boss!

The Shop Around The Corner

1998’s remake starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan sought to capitalise on the email phenomenon which was just starting to take off, though the film’s success could not wipe away the magic of its predecessor.

Born in Berlin, Lubitsch recalled his experiences working in his father’s clothing shop when he was a young boy. When the film premiered at Radio City Music Hall on January 25, 1940, he said:

“I have known just such a little shop in Budapest…The feeling between the boss and those who work for him is pretty much the same the world over, it seems to me. Everyone is afraid of losing his job and everyone knows how little human worries can affect his job. If the boss has a touch of dyspepsia, better be careful not to step on his toes; when things have gone well with him, the whole staff reflects his good humour.”

With its clever banter and spot-on performances by Stewart and Sullavan, The Shop Around The Corner isn’t a conventional Christmas Classic in the same way It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) or Miracle On 34th Street (1947) is, but with its message about finding friendship and love in the unlikeliest of places, it’s as heart-warming a film as any of those other classics and won’t fail to raise a smile even in the hardest of hearts.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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