The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

A SDG Original source: National Catholic Register

Who but Ernst Lubitsch could have pulled off such a winning romantic-comedy classic that dares to include, but is not marred by, such tragic undercurrents, with a frank subplot involving adultery, attempted suicide, and the collapse of a marriage?

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Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut, Sara Haden, William Tracy. MGM.

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/Spiritual Value

+1

Age Appropriateness

Teens & Up

MPAA Rating

NR

Caveat Spectator

An offscreen extramarital affair; a thwarted suicide attempt; romantic complications.

The delicacy and sureness of the "Lubitsch touch" may never have been more crucial to the success of any picture than The Shop Around the Corner, a delightful film with an excellent ensemble cast led by Jimmy Stewart and Margart Sullavan and a classic mistaken-identity premise that has inspired a number of lesser films (notably the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan vehicle You’ve Got Mail, which acknowledged the source of its inspiration in the name of Ryan’s bookstore, "The Shop Around the Corner").

The shop in Shop is Matuschek & Co., a retail shop inexplicably set in Budapest, where the largely American cast have names like Kralik (Stewart), Klara (Sullavan), and Matuschek (Frank Morgan). Head clerk Kralik is Matuschek’s dependable right-hand man, but he gets off on the wrong foot with the unemployed Klara, who’s looking for a job and surprises Kralik by getting herself hired by Matuschek.

Sparks of one sort are soon flying between Kralik and Klara, who rub the other the wrong way in person — yet a second, anonymous connection (via a lonely-hearts ad) generates sparks of another sort.

With consummate deftness, Lubitsch scratches the surface of ordinary characters and circumstances and reveals the reality behind the deceptive appearances — the substance and doubts beneath the vain posturing, the false heart behind the smiling face, the poetic soul behind the prosaic demeanor — and serves all of it up with soufflé-like lightness.

Comedy, Romance