To make sure his film was stripped of the glamour usually associated with him, Ernst Lubitsch went to such lengths as ordering that a dress Margaret Sullavan had purchased off the rack for $1.98 be left in the sun to bleach and altered to fit poorly.
While directing this movie, Ernst Lubitsch drew upon his extensive experiences working in his father's Berlin shop as a young lad. At the film's January 25, 1940 premiere at Radio City Music Hall, Lubitsch remarked, "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 humor.
Soon after wrapping principal photography, Ernst Lubitsch talked to the New York Sun in January 1940. "It's not a big picture, just a quiet little story that seemed to have some charm. It didn't cost very much, for such a cast, under $500,000. It was made in twenty-eight days. I hope it has some charm."
According to the Book "Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise", 'The Shop Around the Corner' is the most meaningful tribute possible to the owner and employees of the long vanished Berlin clothing firm of S. Lubitsch.
Even though Margaret Sullavan was infamous for her quick temper and disdainful attitude towards Hollywood, James Stewart counted working with her as one of the great joys of his professional career. And because he knew her personally, he was more equipped than most of the cast and crew members to deal with her frequent and volatile emotional outbursts.
James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan had known each other a long time before making this film. Both were in a summer stock company called the University Players. It was there that Stewart realized his potential as an actor, so he followed Sullavan and fellow player Henry Fonda to New York to begin an acting career in earnest.
Even James Stewart could get flustered working with Margaret Sullavan. One day it took him forty-eight takes to get a scene right. Stewart said: "We were in this little restaurant and I had the line: 'I will come out on the street and I will roll my trousers up to my knees.' For some reason I couldn't say it. She was furious. She said, 'This is absolutely ridiculous.' There I was standing with my trousers rolled up to my knees, very conscious of my skinny legs, and I said, 'I don't want to act today; get a fellow with decent legs and just show them.' Margaret said, 'Then I absolutely refuse to do the picture.' So we did more takes."
According to Bright Lights Film Journal website, When Kralik mentions "You read Zola's Madame Bovary," Klara immediately corrects him: "Madame Bovary is not by Zola," she snipes. The joke here is that though Klara knows who wrote Madame Bovary, she doesn't understand that she herself is living exclusively in Emma Bovary's world of impossible ideals.
James Stewart was at the top of Ernst Lubitsch's list to play the simple Alfred Kralik because the actor was "the antithesis of the old-time matinee idol; he holds his public by his very lack of a handsome face or suave manner."
At the film's premiere at Radio City Music Hall, Ernst Lubitsch remarked, "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 humor."
The rights to the play on which this film was based were originally purchased by Ernst Lubitsch in 1938 with the intention to film it in an independent "share-the-profits" deal with Myron Selznick using his own company, Ernst Lubitsch Productions. Negotiations for the film's release were conducted with Paramount, RKO and United Artists, and Lubitsch planned to begin filming at the end of October 1938, but the deal failed to materialize, and when Lubitsch signed with MGM in January 1939, he included the story property in the deal with the proviso that he direct it.
This film received its initial television showing in Philadelphia Monday 12 August 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), followed by New York City Saturday 31 August 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2); on the West Coast it was first telecast in San Francisco 2 June 1958 on KGO (Channel 7) and in Los Angeles 8 February 1959 on KTTV (Channel 11).