Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

James Stewart a retail worker in Budapest?

Co-workers with European accents alongside staff seemingly plucked from the streets of Anywhere, USA?

Prepare to accept these strange situations in Shop Around the Corner and settle down with another fine romantic comedy from director Ernst Lubitsch (Trouble in Paradise and Heaven Can Wait are also reviewed on this site).

Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) is the longest-serving employee at Matuschek and Company, a gift shop. He's the only employee in the small store who'll speak candidly to the boss, Hugo Matuschek (Frank Morgan). Pirovitch (Felix Bressart) avoids any type of confrontation with his boss. With a wife and two children at home, he wants to keep collecting his paycheque. Florenz Vadas (Joseph Schildkraut) is an annoying kisser of posterior who's always keeping his ears tuned to any signs of dissent from the employee ranks.

Klara Novak (Margaret Sullivan) wants work, but Kralik acts as gatekeeper and tells her no jobs are to be had. She steps up and makes a pitch to a customer for a product Kralik doesn't want stocked. She's on the payroll.

Kralik and Novak continually clash. That's a little odd considering they're enthusiastically exchanging letters anonymously. Kralik saw her classified ad in the newspaper. It was posted by a "modern woman." Each confides with co-workers of the wonderful person they've found via the post and their anticipation to finally meet.

It's Pirovitch who helps Kralik learn the identity of his dear pen pal. But he opts not to reveal his identity to his co-worker. There's another rendezvous planned for Christmas Eve.

Shop offers more laughs from the clashes between Kralik and Novak than sparks created from their relationship. Novak delivers an especially punishing blow when she chides him for being "an insignificant little clerk." That verbal volley rocks Kralik. The expression on Stewart's face when he hears those words is powerful.

What message do we take from this 1940 MGM film? You never know where you'll find love? We hurt the people we love ("You're cold and snippy like and old maid," Kralik tells Novak)? Suspicion or lack of knowledge about others caries a heavy price? Matuschek sacks Kralik when he thinks his longest-serving employee is fooling around with his wife. "She just didn't want to grow old with me," the boss tells a detective (Charles Halton).

The Shop Around the Corner offers several different takes on love - love gone sour, contented family bliss and the search for love. Check it out.

RATING: 7.5/10

FUN FACTS: Frank Morgan look familiar? He's the title character in The Wizard of Oz.

Joseph Schidkraut was Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank.

William Tracy appeared in Angels with Dirty Faces . His debut was in The Phantom of the Opera.

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