Delectable Hungarian pastry, served up by masters all around. This may be the best romantic comedy ever made. The great Ernst Lubitsch handles his "small" theme brilliantly, bringing the lives of everyday people to the screen as he had never done before.
In contrast to the glamorous heroes of other Lubitsch films, James Stewart's everyman sales clerk is as prosaic as they come. Working in a leather goods shop in Budapest, Stewart is the top clerk and a trusted friend of the owner, Morgan. Together, Morgan and Stewart head a tightly knit force of
workers, all eager to please. Among them are Stewart's closest ally, Bressart, an aging clerk who leads a simple life and avoids confrontation; Schildkraut, a braggart who flashes his newly acquired wealth; and Tracy, an aspiring clerk who is constantly being bossed around. Trouble brews when the
unemployed Sullavan enters the shop and begs Morgan to hire her as Christmas help. He rudely refuses; before she leaves, however, she impresses Morgan by selling a musical cigarette box to a fat woman for use as a candy box. Morgan gives her a job, much to Stewart's consternation.
But Stewart has another distraction, as he confides to Bressart: through a lonely-hearts ad, Stewart has met a wonderful girl, though he knows her only by her box number. After exchanging a number of increasingly romantic letters with the charming lady of Box 237, Stewart makes a date to meet her
in the flesh. Sullavan is herself carrying on an epistolary romance with a man she's never met and whose name she doesn't know--Stewart, of course. While Sullavan and Stewart may love each other in their anonymous letters, however, they feel only an increasing mutual dislike at the shop.
While THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER lacks the immediate impact of the more spectacular TO BE OR NOT TO BE or HEAVEN CAN WAIT, this late entry from Lubitsch touches viewers deeply. The director renders a broad array of characters and emotions with a delicacy unusual even for him. Lubitsch said of the
film: "As for human comedy, I think I never was as good as in THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER. Never did I make a picture in which the atmosphere and the characters were truer than in this picture."
The film features a James Stewart many of us have forgotten once existed--his touch is delicate and precise. He's perfectly matched by Sullavan, a forgotten genius who never gave a bad performance. And this is perhaps Morgan's finest portrayal. These three had also completed Borzage's THE MORTAL
STORM the same year. SHOP was later turned into a musical for Judy Garland and Van Johnson, IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME--one of Garland's most formulaic efforts.
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- Review: Delectable Hungarian pastry, served up by masters all around. This may be the best romantic comedy ever made. The great Ernst Lubitsch handles his "small" theme brilliantly, bringing the lives of everyday people to the screen as he had never done before.… (more)