The Shop Around The Corner (1940)


One of my favorite parts of “You’ve Got Mail” (1998) is when Tom Hanks’ Joe Fox snatches all the caviar garnish at a small dinner party to Meg Ryans’ Kathleen Kelly’s chagrin.

Enjoy here:

Holiday Hidden Gem #2:

“The Shop Around The Corner” (1940) directed by Ernst Lubitsch, the film was written as a screenplay by Samson Raphaelson, based on the 1937 Hungarian play “Parfumerie” by Miklós László. Dealing with regional politics in the years leading up to World War II, the film follows two employees at a leathergoods shop in Budapest, who do not get along, while falling in love as anonymous pen pals. This film prompted several remakes, including the musical rendition starring Judy Garland in 1949, “In the Good Old Summertime,” a 1963 Broadway musical called “She Loves Me,” and most notably, the 1998 rom-com “You’ve Got Mail” starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, directed by Nora Ephron. The 1998 version tracks a similar, albeit updated, plotline and repurposes some of the dialogue, crediting László’s “Parfumerie” officially, but providing a nod to the 1940 version by naming Ryan’s characters bookshop “The Shop Around The Corner.”

This classic stars Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart as bickering co-workers who have engaged in a correspondence with an unknown person, with whom they’ve both begun to fall in love. One evening, they finally decide to meet over a cup of coffee, signaling who they are with their favorite book with a carnation tucked in the pages. Alfred Kralik (Stewart) arrives at the cafe after his love interest and discovers through the window that it is Klara Novak (Sullavan) before she sees him. Initially discouraged, he decides to take the opportunity to go in and get to know her better. The dynamic leads to plenty of tête-à-tête exchanges between the two, only serving to build their chemistry rather than dissipate it.

“You’ve Got Mail” is a far superior film, ultimately, managing to heighten the stakes, build the characters more intricately and create more opportunity for comedy throughout, but it is clear that the bare bones of one was the other. It is always enjoyable to revisit films where Jimmy Stewart is on-screen and the lesser known Margaret Sullavan is delightful with a girl-next-door sensibility. It is an easy-to-watch holiday film, perhaps to pair with the 1998 update, and add to your seasonal roster.

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