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on October 17, 1999
This is my all-time favorite romantic comedy (and I am a veteran film fan). YOU'VE GOT MAIL is OK, but the modern film makers had to upgrade Hanks' character to make him rich and threw in unnecessary sexual complications for both characters, thereby detracting from the main plot. IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME, the Judy Garland musical version of the same plot, has the acrimony between the two main characters so strong that it is completely unbelievable when they suddenly fall in love. Only this movie has the perfect touch throughout. The makers of the stage musical, SHE LOVES ME, wisely stuck with the SHOP AROUND THE CORNER plot and produced a most delightful show.Stewart and Sullavan make a superb team, with just the right balance in their developing relationship to make the ending not only possible, but even inevitable. The supporting cast is nearly perfect, especially the always excellent Frank Morgan. Felix Bressart, as Pirovich, and Joseph Schildkraut, as the arrogant but slippery villain, are a delight to watch.Don't just rent this movie--buy it! You will want to watch it again and again. And each time will seem as fresh as the first, because there isn't a false note in the whole film.
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This is a delightful vintage movie that has had several remakes, the most recent being "You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Having seen both versions, this 1940 film has got it beat. Beautifully directed by Ernst Lubitsch, this is a charming, romantic comedy that sets the standard for this genre of film.
The premise of the film is simple. In Budapest, Hungary, a young woman advertises for a pen pal, with the proviso that each are to remain anonymous. A young man responds to her ad, and they begin corresponding and fall in love through the mail. Unbeknownst to them, these two amorous correspondents, Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) and Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) are co-workers in a leather goods shop owned by Hugo Matuschek (Frank Morgan of Wizard of Oz fame). Unfortunately, they do not appear to get along, and the words fly fast and furious between them at times.
There is also a strong sub-plot in this film, involving the cuckolding of Mr. Matuschek by his wife of twenty two years. It is a sub-plot that causes a greatly anguished Mr. Matuschek to turn on an employee whom he holds most dear. This sets in to motion a sequence of interconnecting events and revelations that work beautifully, setting the film for its final resolution between the two main protagonists, Kralik and Novak.
James Stewart gives a terrific performance as Kralik, the working stiff who is just looking for the right girl and finds her where he least expected. Stewart always shines when playing the classic Everyman. Margaret Sullavan, as Novak, gives a pert and sassy performance that belies her longing for romance in her life and for her knight in shining armor. Her sharp tongued banter with Kralik disguises an attraction that even she does not fully understand. As they say, there is a fine line between love and hate.
Frank Morgan gives a well-nuanced, scene stealing performance as Matuschek, the shopkeeper whose heart is initially broken on a number of fronts. In the end, he rights what went wrong and finds some surcease for his psychic pain by bringing some happiness to another person. Felix Bressart, as the kindly Pirovitch, Kralik's friend and co-worker, and Joseph Schildkraut, as the unctuous Ferenc Vadas, a co-worker whom Kralik detests, are also to be lauded for their performances. William Tracy, as the indefatigable Pepi Katona, the store messenger on the make, is absolutely delightful.
This is a masterfully directed film, with wonderful performances by the entire cast. It is a film to be remembered and added to one's personal collection. Bravo!
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on October 3, 2002
"The Shop Around the Corner" is the first of three films based on the same story line. (The others are "In the Good Old Summertime," starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson, and "You've Got Mail," starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.) This original version is, by far, the best of the three.
While the acting abilities of James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan are legendary, it's the supporting cast that truly carries this film. Frank Morgan (perhaps best known for his role as the Wizard of OZ) is marvelous as Mr. Matuschek, the shop owner. Sara Hayden, Felix Bressart, and Joseph Schildkraut round out the principle supporting cast and all turn in wonderful performances.
If you're a fan of James Stewart or Margaret Sullivan you must see this film. If you love romantic comedies, this is one of the best. And if you just want to see a thoroughly enjoyable movie, watch this one and you won't be disappointed.
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on January 14, 2000
"The Shop Around the Corner" is one of the best Jimmy Stewart movies out there. He and Margaret Sullavan are excellent as Alfred and Klara, two shopworkers who, unbeknownst to them, are falling in love as pen-pals. The supporting characters in the movie such as Mr. Matuscheck, Pepi, and my favorite, Mr. Pirovitch, keep the storyline amusing and witty at all times. Even though I like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, "You've Got Mail" doesn't even compare to the quality of it's predecessor. "The Shop Around the Corner" creates an atmosphere in which Alfred and Klara don't really hate each other, but more mildly annoy each other. In "You've Got Mail", Ryan and Hanks give the impression of having no respect for each other. "The Shop Around the Corner" at least makes the ending believeable and even bound to happen, while "You've Got Mail" makes it seem like it wouldn't really work out. In "You've Got Mail", they made Hanks really rich and her not so rich, and they didn't even work together. He puts her out of the business her mom had founded; they were written as competitors and not co-workers, which makes the ending very unlikely because of the obvious immediate dislike they took for each other, or at least Ryan for Hanks. This classic is one that never gets old; you will never get tired of the storyline or the characters.
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on January 27, 2003
In the 1930s and '40s, Ernst Lubitsch made some of the most charming romantic comedies ever made, including "The Love Parade" with Maurice Chevalier and "Ninotchka" with Greta Garbo, not to mention "To Be or Not To Be," one of the greatest comedies of all time. His films had what was called "The Lubitsch touch," a mixture of romance, comedy and social commentary that just plain sparkled.
In the midst of this streak he made "The Shop Around the Corner," which has been overshadowed over the years by its remakes "In the Good Old Summertime" and "You've Got Mail." It is far superior to either.
Jimmy Stewart is Alfred Kralik, a clerk in Matuschek's leather goods store (nothing kinky, just luggage) in Budapest. Into his store walks Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan), who he thinks is a customer but really just wants a job. She gets hired, and quickly they get on each other's nerves. By sheer coincidence, they've been exchanging letters anonymously and have fallen in love without knowing each other's identity.
Around this main story is a tragic-comic subplot about Mr. Matuschek (Frank Morgan, of "Wizard of Oz" fame) suspecting his wife of being unfaithful with Mr. Kralik. The resolution of this plot is surprisingly somber, and in lesser hands than Lubitsch might have come off as melodramatic (just as the lovers' plot might have come off as far-fetched). But Lubitsch could mix the serious with the silly, and not shortchange either.
But what makes this movie interesting to me is the real-life story of Stewart and Sullavan. She met best friends Stewart and Henry Fonda when all three were members of the Cape Cod-based University Players. She would marry Fonda, but they would only stay together for two months. She and Stewart were in love for a time, and he reportedly carried a torch for her until his 1949 marriage. She married three more times and battled drug addiction and mental illness before committing suicide in 1960. But all that lay in the future when this film was made, and I take some consolation in the fact the sparks that fly between Stewart and Sullavan were based on real emotion.
As for this DVD edition, it would have been enough to have a "bare bones" edition of the movie. Instead, we have a feature (the 1940 MGM short "The Romance of Sound" -- not two features as the Amazon description might lead you to believe), and a great old-fashioned trailer (with Morgan in character). The only downside: If the trailers for "In the Good Old Summertime" and "You've Got Mail" are on the disc, as it says on the box, they are too well-hidden for me. Methinks someone goofed.
For lovers of classic movies, this one's a no-brainer.
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on November 17, 2000
This old fashioned romantic comedy made in 1940 by Ernst Lubitsch ("To Be Or Not To Be") and written by Samson Raphaelson is like one of the many kinds of movies I remember growing up watching. It's perfect on all levels, the acting is great, Lubitsch's directing is always wonderful, the screenplay is heartfelt, funny, and charming. Klara Novak (Margeret Sullavan) and Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) are both co-workers in "Matuschek's" gift shop in Budapest, Hungry. All they do is argue with each! Whether it's about getting out a little earlier, how to stock things, or even about the clothes they wear! But what they don't know is they are both pen-pals who correspond pseudonymous with each other. They each write to each other about cultural subjects, such as literature. After a while, they each start to write about love. And soon, even though they never met, they start falling in love with each other. But Lubitsch does just stop there with the story. There are many more sub-plots that take place that give the movie even more heart and sentiment. They're wonderful supporting characters to watch also, like Pirovitch (Felix Bressart), who always runs away and hides whenever the boss ask for someone's honest opinion lol, and there's Hugo Matschek (Frank Morgan). With the hoilday season coming up, this is a wonderful christmas movie the entire family can sit down and watch. If you really want to make a "family event", buy this movie and "It's A Wonderful Life". You won't be disappointed.
p.s- As stated by other reviewers a remake quickly followed this film ( well not exactly quickly, it took 58 years) "You've Got Mail".
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on January 12, 2000
I saw the original Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and it was great! It had the romance of the 1940's, was simple and straightforward, yet held my attention for the entire movie. It also had great subplots, unlike the modern version with Tom Hanks. I like old fashion movies, and this is one of them. It was romantic, without being Shmaltzy. For the price Amazon is charging, its a bargain!
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on October 20, 1999
Well, being a fan of Jimmy Stewart and also absolutely adoring You've Got Mail were what drew me to this film. And believe me, I wasn't disappointed. The supporting characters like Pirovitch and Pepi really helped shape the movie. Well, and Stewart and Sullivan did a great job too. I've lately gotten into watching the old versions of new movies and found that I like some of them better.
My reccomendations: If you liked... Runaway Bride, watch It Happened One Night; Sabrina (w/Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond) watch Sabrina (w/Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn); Love Affair, watch An Affair to Remember (which by the way is much, much better); Titanic, watch A Night to Remember; The Preacher's Wife, watch the Bishop's Wife.
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on June 30, 2003
"The Shop Around The Corner" was the first film I watched by the master director Ernst Lubitsch, and despite all of the rave reviews, I was not disappointed. A beautifully crafted film, more complex than "You've Got Mail". In addition to the romance between Klara Novak (Sullavan) and Alfred Kralik (Stewart), the problems of the shop owner Matuschek (Morgan) add depth to the movie and make it more touching. If you like this film, also see Lubitsch's "Trouble In Paradise", considered by many to be the best example of the Lubitsch touch.
Picture quality is excellent, but not flawless. There are some film artifacts throughout, but they do not distract from the timelessness of this movie.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon November 20, 2006
Ernst Lubitsch was a master of the unexpected comedy element, something so idiosyncratic that it defies serious explanation. This charming 1940 classic epitomizes his style so well that the subsequent remakes appear either marginally pointless (the musical 1949 version, "In the Good Old Summertime") or excruciatingly formulaic (1998's e-mail update, "You've Got Mail"). That's why for my 1,000th review on Amazon, I strongly recommend this wondrous and gentle romantic comedy starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

Written by Samson Raphaelson, the soufflé-light plot involves the staff at Matuschek & Company, a Budapest leather goods emporium run by its curmudgeonly namesake. Head clerk Alfred Kralik is on the management track when Klara Novak impresses Matuschek enough to get hired as a new sales clerk. Inevitably, Alfred and Klara are at odds with each other from the start, but we discover they are also unwitting pen-pals who are falling in love without having met. Meanwhile, Matuschek suspects his wife of having an affair and suspects Alfred, whom he immediately terminates. When it turns out not to be Alfred but his despised co-worker, the bootlicking toady Ferencz Vadas, Matuschek commits a desperate act which forces Alfred to become the interim store manager. The busy Christmas season provides the appropriate setting to resolve all the plot strands.

What strikes me most about the film is not the actual storyline, which borders on predictable and contrived upon closer inspection, but the way Lubitsch and the cast bring it to life in such subtly memorable ways. Young and assured, Stewart gives one of my favorite of his performances as Alfred, and with her buttery speaking voice, Sullavan provides the perfect match as Klara. Their chemistry is palpable and makes the subsequent remakes feel comparatively pallid. The Wizard himself, Frank Morgan portrays Matuschek with alternate bluster and poignancy. The other players also make vivid impressions, in particular, Lubitsch regular Felix Bressart as the timid Pirovitch, a cast-against-type Joseph Schildkraut as the slimy Vadas, and William Tracy as the resourceful errand boy Pepi. The print transfer on the 2002 DVD is blessedly clean, and there are two extras offered, the original theatrical trailer and a 1940 short, "The Miracle of Sound" about the impact of the sound revolution at MGM.
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