An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Today, we’ve got a Christmas-themed triple-feature (mainly because they are recent releases and I don’t want to wait for December to review them)!  To start things off, we’ve got that 1940 classic The Shop Around The Corner, starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart!  So let’s first get through our theatrical short, and then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Field And Scream (1955)

(Available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)

We follow American sportsman Ed Jones as he goes fishing and hunting. This cartoon was a lot of fun, with some of the types of gags that Tex Avery was known for. To a degree, you can see the ending coming, but that doesn’t take away from the humor of it (or all the hilarity that led up to it). It’s one of the last cartoons Tex did for MGM, but it’s still enjoyable to see, and I look forward to future revisits!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In Budapest, Hungary, we find Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) working as the head clerk at Matuschek And Company, which, as the shop’s name implies, is run by Hugo Matuschek (Frank Morgan). One time, while they were waiting for Mr. Matuschek to open up the shop, Alfred tells his friend and co-worker Pirovitch (Felix Bressart) that he answered a personal ad from the newspaper, and is now writing letters anonymously to somebody else. That same day, Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) comes in looking for a job. Alfred tries to tell her they have no opening, but when she manages to sell a cigarette box that plays “Ochi Tchornya” when opened (something that Mr. Matuschek wanted to sell in the shop but Alfred thought wasn’t for them), she is hired. Fast forward to the Christmas shopping season, and a number of things have changed. For one thing, Alfred and his pen pal have become more serious, and are trying to plan when to meet. In the shop, Alfred and Klara continue to bicker and fight, and, for some reason, Mr. Matuschek is having issues with Alfred as well, resulting in him being fired one day(of course, it would be the day he hoped to meet his pen pal). Alfred’s friend Pirovitch takes him to the meeting place at a restaurant as his moral support, where they both see that his pen pal is none other than Klara! Alfred decides not to go in at first, but later comes back alone. He doesn’t reveal his identity to Klara, but instead stops to talk with her (and it’s not long before they start bickering again). Later that night, Alfred learns from the shop’s errand boy, Pepi Katona (William Tracy), that their boss, Mr. Matuschek, had tried to commit suicide (but Pepi stopped him from going through with it). The reason? Mr. Matuschek had found out his wife was having an affair with someone! He had suspected Alfred (which is why he fired him), but it turns out it was another employee, Ferencz Vadas (Joseph Schildkraut). In the hospital, Mr. Matuschek rehires Alfred, and makes him the store manager (since he himself will be away from work while he recuperates). Almost all of Alfred’s co-workers are happy to see him back (and in a new position), but Alfred quickly finds an excuse to fire the flattering Vadas (like Mr. Matuschek wanted him to do). Klara, however, wasn’t feeling well, and so doesn’t come in. Alfred checks up on her after work, and sees her perk up when she receives another letter from her unknown pen pal. With Alfred now genuinely falling for Klara, will he be able to tell her the truth, or will they continue to stay apart?

The Shop Around The Corner was based on the 1936 play Perfumerie by Nikolaus László. Director Ernst Lubitsch bought the film rights himself, and brought them with him when he signed with MGM. However, the two stars he wanted, James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, were unavailable to start right away, and, while he waited for them to become available, he directed the classic Ninotchka. In making The Shop Around The Corner, Ernst Lubitsch drew from his own life experiences working in his father’s tailor shop when he was younger. The film would end up being a hit, and would be remade on the big screen two more times (in 1949 as the musical In The Good Old Summertime and again in 1998 as You’ve Got Mail).

I’ve seen this movie once previously on television (I’ve actually had more experience with seeing its musical remake, In The Good Old Summertime), but that first viewing left me a fan of this movie! I’ll admit, I didn’t get the chance to see it again until the new Blu-ray release (but I’ll get to that in a moment). But I still enjoy this movie (possibly even more now)! The story is a fun premise, with the two main characters falling in love via their correspondence (and all without even knowing that they are actually working together). The chemistry between James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan is still there, in this third of four films they did together (and, so far, the only one of the four that I’ve had the opportunity to see). And the rest of the cast is good, too! Frank Morgan proves himself as an actor, in a role that’s different from his usual persona (but well-acted, as opposed to his stiff performance in Fast And Loose, which I reviewed earlier this year). He in particular helps make this movie great, as we see him struggle with his feelings of betrayal by someone he regarded as a son (even though he was wrong about it). And Joseph Schildkraut as the suckup Vadas does a great job of making you dislike him (even before the revelation about him having an affair with his boss’ wife), and I can’t help but cheer when he finally gets what’s coming to him later on in the film! And, aside from Vadas, you do get a sense of all of the employees at Matuschek being a tightknit family, so well do they work together (especially when Vadas is removed from the picture)! And, while the majority of this movie takes place around Christmastime, it’s still fun to watch any other time of the year as well (but I can guarantee that I’ll be trying to watch it again around Christmas)! So, if you get the chance to see it, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. As best as I can determine, the movie was restored from a 2K scan of some protection elements made from the original nitrate negative. Whatever was used, the movie looks FANTASTIC!! The picture is so nice and crisp, showing off all the details now. I’ve been waiting for this one to show up on Blu-ray for quite a while, and the wait has been well worth it! This release is highly recommended as the best way to see this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Good Fairy (1935) – Margaret Sullavan

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) – James Stewart – The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Balalaika (1939) – Frank Morgan – Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940)

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