Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand one another, without realising that they are falling in love through the post as each other’s anonymous pen pal.
- Klara Novak: Margaret Sullavan
- Alfred Kralik: James Stewart
- Hugo Matuschek: Frank Morgan
- Ferencz Vadas: Joseph Schildkraut
- Flora: Sara Haden
- Pirovitch: Felix Bressart
- Pepi Katona: William Tracy
- Ilona Novotny: Inez Courtney
- Customer: Sarah Edwards
- Doctor: Edwin Maxwell
- Detective: Charles Halton
- Rudy: Charles Smith
- Policeman (uncredited): Charles Arnt
- Customer (uncredited): Joan Blair
- Grandmother (uncredited): Mary Carr
- Aunt Anna (uncredited): Mabel Colcord
- Customer (uncredited): Claire Du Brey
- Waiter (uncredited): William Edmunds
- Plump Woman (uncredited): Grace Hayle
- Customer (uncredited): Mira McKinney
- Restaurant Patron (uncredited): Sol Murgi
- Customer (uncredited): Renie Riano
- Customer (uncredited): Gertrude Simpson
- Customer (uncredited): Ruth Warren
- Producer: Ernst Lubitsch
- Screenplay: Samson Raphaelson
- Original Music Composer: Werner R. Heymann
- Director of Photography: William H. Daniels
- Screenplay: Ben Hecht
- Hairstylist: Sydney Guilaroff
- Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
- Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis
- Editor: Gene Ruggiero
- Sound Director: Douglas Shearer
- Theatre Play: Miklós László
- Assistant Director: Horace Hough
- Orchestrator: Wally Heglin
- John Chard: Ah, epistolary love, delightful.
This is the story of Matuschek and Company – – of Mr. Matuschek and the people who work for him. It is just around the corner from Andrassy Street – – on Balta Street, in Budapest, Hungary.
Klara Novak seeks work at Hugo Matuschek’s Budapest store, after initially being turned down by head clerk Alfred Kralik, she gains employment after impressing the originally gruff Matuschek himself. This annoys Alfred and both he and Klara take an instant dislike to each other, completely unaware that they are I fact both each others lonely hearts pen pal.
Boy oh boy was this production in safe hands. Produced and directed by the fabulous Ernst Lubitsch (“To Be Or Not To Be” & “Heaven Can Wait”) and starring James Stewart (take your pick of many classics), Margaret Sullavan (“The Good Fairy” & “So Red the Rose”) and Frank Morgan (“The Wizard Of Oz”). Adapted by Samson Raphaelson from Miklós László’s play (“Parfumerie”), The Shop Around The Corner ranks up with the best of the romantic comedies from the classic era. Blending charm with community spirit, and dark moments with beams of light, it’s a concocted remedy for the blues at a time when war was at the forefront of everyones minds.
Unashamedly sweet as it is, it’s important to note the intricacies of the plot, with people being desperate for work, even forming rivalries within the confines of the shop, they even manage to flesh out an infidelity arc to really keep the viewer on their respective toes. All the efforts here are first class, Stewart gives the kind of performance that is often overlooked, no middle America “Aww Shucks” on show here, it’s precise and with feeling, this is a truly great Stewart performance.
Sullavan is sadly something of a forgotten actress, and her films are so hard to find as well, it’s a shame because she’s right on the money and matches Stewart pound for pound in both humorous and emotive acting. Director Lubitsch once said that for human comedy he was never as on form as he was with The Shop Around The Corner, so who wishes to argue with that? Because the evidence suggests he was right, and I can only add that it is not merely just a romantic comedy, it’s an experience all around the table – and then some. 9/10