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Lubitsch's charming masterpiece, so often imitated and re-adapted since it
appeared in 1940, is one of the very few films that can be called perfect.
There is not a shot, a line, a performance, or a moment in THE SHOP AROUND
THE CORNER that isn't exactly right. Everything fits together and runs like
a Swiss watch.
With its flawless screenplay and cast, it's the most subtle, discreet, and understated of romantic comedies. What other film manages to be so warm-hearted yet so rigorously unsentimental? What other movie story is so exquisitely planned and executed?
Margaret Sullaven isn't sexy, it's true, but this isn't a film about sex. It's about love in the human heart and mind. A sexier actress would have thrown things out-of-balance. As always, Lubitsch knew exactly what he was doing. Just as he knew ace comedian Frank Morgan (the WIZARD OF OZ's Wizard) had hidden depth, which this film so beautifully reveals.
They don't make them like this anymore -- they didn't make them like this back then, either. SHOP was under-rated in 1940, when it appeared. It's simply too subtle, too intelligent and disciplined for the average viewer or critic.
Nothing overdone or exaggerated. Nothing out-of-place. If Mozart had been a filmmaker, he would have made this one. Warm, charming, adult, quiet, intelligent, knowing, touching ... perfection.
This is a movie that gets better each time I see it. There are so many
nuanced performances in this. William Tracey, as Pepi, is a delight,
bringing sharp comic relief. Joseph Schildkraut as Vadas, is the only
"villian" in the movie, and his oily charms are well used here. Frank
Morgan, is delightful as the owner of the title shop, Mr. Matuschek,
and his familiar manner is well used here. I especially liked the
performance of Felix Bressart, as Pirovitch. Very believable in every
facet of his role.
The two leads are equally accomplished, with Margaret Sullivan doing an outstanding job of portraying a slightly desperate, neurotic, yet charming and attractive woman.
This movie belongs to Jimmy Stewart though. The movie is presented from his point of view, with the action rotating around him. Mr. Stewart is more then up to the task of carrying the movie, with an amazing performance that uses a wide range of emotions. Just watch Stewart, when he is fired from his job, because of a misunderstanding. He is able to convey the shock, anger, fear and embarrassment that so traumatic an event causes, so perfectly. In my estimation, James Stewart is, without question, the greatest film actor in the history of the medium. There is no one else that has ever been captured on film that is able to so completely convey what he is feeling to an audience. At the time he made this movie, he still had most of his career ahead of him, yet he is completely the master of his craft. This is one of Jimmy Stewarts best movies, and also one of the sweetest, most enjoyable romantic comedies you will find. I greatly recommend this movie, especially for those that appreciate the work of Stewart.
The Stewart /Sullavan relationship and the warmth which flows on the
screen are only one bend in a most extraordinary river.Although
"extraordinary" is not the right word,because everything here is
ordinary,no hero,no spectacular events and however,something happens.
The shop is a life microcosm,with its little quiet joys and its bitter disappointments,but,Lubitsch,here very close to Capra ,proves that virtuous gents like Stewart character can triumph in the end;and the final scene of the lovers is one of the wittier in the whole cinema.We seem to know all the clerks in the shop as if we've known them for years,and their everyday life is depicted with love and affection.The yuletide spirit is captured with a lot of emotion-check the scene between the boss and his new delivery boy Rudi and predates "it's a wonderful life" by five years.
The main topic is the fear of solitude.The shop is the place where everyone can feel he is part of a family,a family sometimes truer than the real one (see the boss's wife).And the director wants to make sure that ,when they leave their work on Xmas night,everyone is not on his own.A masterful conclusion.
The remake "you've got mail" featuring Ryan and Hanks is politically correct to a fault.All Lubitsch's movie charm and poetry seem to have been swallowed by the computers.
Ernst Lubitsch's contribution to the American cinema is enormous. His
legacy is an outstanding group of movies that will live forever, as is
the case with "The Shop Around the Corner". This film has been remade
into other less distinguished movies and a musical play, without the
charm or elegance of Mr. Lubitsch's own, and definite version.
Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart worked in several films together. Their characters in this movie stand out as an example of how to be in a movie without almost appearing to be acting at all. Both stars are delightful as the pen pals that don't know of one another, but who fate had them working together in the same shop in Budapest.
The reason why these classic films worked so well is the amazing supporting casts the studios put together in picture after picture. In here, we have the wonderful Frank Morgan, playing the owner of the shop. Also, we see Joseph Schildkraut, Felix Bressart, William Tracy and Charles Smith, among others, doing impressive work in making us believe that yes, they are in Budapest.
That is why these films will live forever!
I have lost count of just how many times I have seen this movie - I
probably know the entire dialog backwards - yet I am drawn to it time
Set in Hungary, a young Jimmy Stewart plays the eligible bachelor "Kralik" who becomes the secret admirer of Margaret Sullavan's innocent "Klara". Kralik secretly becomes Klara's pen-friend, and at work together Klara confides in Kralik about the content of his (Kralik's) letters. Clearly Kralik is besotted with Klara - but is unable to make his feelings known whilst he is in competition with the "pen-friend". Confused? Well you wont be - this story has a sweet, almost sugary ending - but we all know it is the ending we all want.
Other characters worth mentioning are Frank Morgan playing his usual role, this time as the shop's owner "Hugo Matuschek", Felix Bressart as "Pirovitch", Kralik's confidant. Joseph Schildkraut as the womanising arrogant "Vadas" - so well played that you cannot help but hate him right from the beginning.
Finally William Tracy who manages to endear himself to us all with his over-confident upstart of a shop junior "Pepi Katona".
Recently re-made as "You've Got Mail" starring Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan for me is not as good as the original - although I suspect younger audiences would disagree.
If this film is on in your area over Christmas, I suggest you pour yourself a nice glass of wine, put a log on the fire and have a box of Kleenex handy.
The cast really helps make this a pleasant surprise and a cut above the
normal man-vs.-woman-argue-all-the-time-but-wind up-in love-type of
Hollywood screwball romance/comedy.
I usually don't go for those type of films and that tiresome storyline but this one was refreshing, fun to watch, and oozes with charm.
Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan play off each other well and make a very handsome couple. The supporting cast is outstanding - from the always-likable Felix Bressart to the villain Joseph Schildkraut.
Frank Morgan also plays one of the most interesting characters I've ever seen him do in his career. He takes the film and turns it around into a whole different mood for awhile when something dramatic happens to him. That "twist" is another reason this film rises above others of its kind.
Once again, when a film has a good mix of categories, it usually succeeds. This is a great example of that. In this movie, it's romance, comedy and drama and it's well done. I'll take this over the re-make "You've Got Mail," any day. No comparison.
A wonderful film, filled with great understated performance and sharp, intelligent dialogue. What really distinguishes the film, however, is that undercurrent of sadness throughout. The story is underscored by affairs, loneliness, suicide, disappointment, the fear of losing ones job in a world where that had disastrous consequences. Most of all it was set in a world that no longer existed, having been ripped apart by the beginning of World War II. In fact, the film is barely a comedy at all if you compare the percentage of serious scenes to the comic scenes. Yet funny it is--listen to Margaret Sullivan's harsh dismissal of Jimmy Stewart and watch his pained expression as he replies that her comments were a remarkable blend "of poetry and meanness". It's funny, pointed, and sad all at once. A remarkable achievement and one of the ten greatest screen comedies ever made.
With a very good cast, a nice blend of wit and sentiment, and many other
pluses, this classic remains as enjoyable and charming as ever. The fluffy
but pleasant story benefits greatly from the Lubitsch touch, since he had
the knack of giving significance to little things without taking them or
himself too seriously. Presenting his characters honestly yet
sympathetically, he makes the somewhat contrived situation seem believable
and worth caring about. Its appeal comes across as almost effortless, but
you only have to compare it with the less effective 90's remake to see how
important the right touch is with this kind of story.
The atmosphere of life in the Budapest shop is set up efficiently and convincingly, and the cast all settle into their roles seamlessly. As the leads, Jimmy Stewart works perfectly, of course, and Margaret Sullavan conveys the right balance of spunkiness and vulnerability. Felix Bressart is invaluable, giving perhaps the finest performance among his many character roles. In some of his scenes, he barely has to say a word to make you smile. Frank Morgan is surprisingly good in a role rather different than usual for him, Joseph Schildkraut is effectively oily as the deceitful Vadas, and the others all help out, too. Lubitsch gives all of the characters a chance to come to life without pretense, just by using simple details effectively.
It all fits together very well, moves at just the right pace, and makes you a part of the characters' world. It makes for a very enjoyable movie that holds up very well even after several viewings.
Sweet romantic drama/comedy about Stewart and Sullavan writing love letters to each other without either one knowing who the other is. Naturally, they work together and can't stand each other. You can guess the rest. It's beautifully acted by the entire cast (especially Sullavan, Stewart and Frank Morgan), has a witty, intelligent script and looks absolutely stunning. It takes place in Budapest and was shot in Hollywood, but I found myself believing I was seeing Budapest! Everything looks so perfect and dream-like. A one of a kind film. Don't miss it!
Much about love & life can be learned from watching the
at THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER.
Ernst Lubitsch had another quiet triumph added to his credit with this lovely film. With sparkling dialogue (courtesy of his longtime collaborator Samson Raphaelson) and wonderful performances from a cast of abundantly talented performers, he created a truly memorable movie. Always believing in playing up to the intelligence of his viewers, and favoring sophistication over slapstick, the director concocted a scintillating cinematic repast seasoned with that elusive, enigmatic quality known as the Lubitsch touch.'
Although the story is set in Budapest (and there is a jumble of accents among the players) this is of no consequence. The beautiful simplicity of the plot is that any great American city or small town could easily be the locus for the action.
Jimmy Stewart & Margaret Sullavan are wonderful as the clerks in love with romance and then with each other - without knowing it. Their dialogue - so adeptly handled as to seem utterly natural - perfectly conveys their confusion & quiet desperation as they seek for soul mates. Theirs is one of the classic love stories of the cinema.
Cherubic Frank Morgan has a more serious role than usual, that of a man whose transient importance in his little world is shattered when he finds himself to be a cuckold. An accomplished scene stealer, he allows no emotion to escape unvented. Additionally, Morgan provides the film with its most joyous few moments - near the end - when he determines that his store's newest employee, an impoverished youth, enjoys a memorable Christmas Eve.
Joseph Schildkraut adds another vivid depiction to his roster of screen portrayals, this time that of a toadying, sycophantic Lothario who thoroughly deserves the punishment eventually meted out to him. Gentle Felix Bressart has his finest film role as a family man who really can not afford to become involved in shop intrigues, yet remains a steadfast friend to Stewart.
Sara Haden graces the small role of a sales clerk. William Tracy is hilarious as the ambitious errand boy who takes advantage of unforeseen developments to leverage himself onto the sales force.
In tiny roles, Charles Halton plays a no-nonsense detective and Edwin Maxwell appears as a pompous doctor. Movie mavens will recognize Mary Carr & Mabel Colcord - both uncredited - in their single scene as Miss Sullavan's grandmother & aunt.
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