‘The Shop Around The Corner’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Parfumerie with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan

My Dad asked me to review this movie on my blog and I’m doing that with some help from him! 😀

‘The Shop Around The Corner’ is a 1940 film based on the 1937 Hungarian play ‘Parfumerie’ by Miklós László. It stars James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as the main leads. This is one of my Dad’s favourite films. I think it is okay, although my Dad’s tastes in movies don’t exactly match mine.

This film feels pretty theatrical throughout. To me, it does come across as very slow-paced. It certainly isn’t one of your fast moving flash bang wallop movies of today! There are decent moments of humour and drama featured in this and there are interesting twists and character developments.

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Personally I wouldn’t consider it one of my favourites, as to me it lacks excitement. But that doesn’t mean I dislike the film. I think it’s above average. ‘The Shop Around The Corner’ is probably the first film adaptation of ‘Parfumerie’. There were a number of remakes made after this was made in 1940.

There was the 1949 film made nine years later called ‘In The Good Old Summertime’ with Judy Garland and Van Johnson. There’s also the 1963 Broadway music ‘She Loves Me’ and the 1998 film ‘You’ve Got Mail’ with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I guess there is appeal in the ‘Parfumerie’ play. 😀

Many movie critics claim that none of the later films and stage musical adaptations ever came near to superseding the original 1940 version so successfully. By the time ‘You’ve Got Mail’ was released, electronic e-mail was used in the storytelling instead of the traditional letting writing back in the 40s.

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I like the performances of the cast in this film including James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. I also felt driven by some of the emotional drama in this film. It starts off slow at first, but by the time we get to the second half of the film, it does get interesting and there is an underlying plot throughout.

The film takes place in Budapest in Hungary at a leathergoods shop called Matuscheck and Company. The owner is Mr. Hugh Matuschek. He has his fellow co-workers including Alfred Kralik; Klara Novak; Ferencz Vadas; Mr. Pirovitch, Pepi Katona, etc. They’re distinct characters in their own right.

The main focus of the story commences immediately with an underlying tension between employer Hugh Matuschek who suspects his main clerk Alfred Kralik of having a secret love affair with his wife. It results in Mr Kralik being eventually sacked from his job, which perked my interest when I saw this.

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In addition to this, there’s the complication of Alfred Kralik and Klara Novak corresponding with each as secret pen pals. They don’t realise this of course and the humour of the story lies between the love relationship that exists between them in their letter writing and conflict as workers in the shop.

The test of the relationship between them is will Klara will ever love Mr. Kralik once she finds out that he is her secret pen pal! This makes for interesting drama. It was lovely to see how it was played out between Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart’s characters as they perform them superbly well.

My Dad considers this movie to be a Christmas film. This is strongly evident by the end when we get to Christmas Eve in the story. The film’s not necessarily about Christmas, but I suppose it does have that quaint Christmassy atmosphere which I found entertaining and so reassuring at the same time.

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James Stewart is very good as Alfred Kralik in the film. I’ve seen James Stewart in many things including the Frank Capra films and the Alfred Hitchcock films. He played Glenn Miller in ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ 1954 film as well as starring in the Frank Capra film masterpiece, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.

Alfred Kralik can be rather nitpicky, especially when he gives his honest opinion about something to Mr. Matuschek at the shop. He can come across as rather sharp with Klara Novak when working at the shop. But deep down he’s a kind-hearted soul and wants to see the best in those he works with.

Margaret Sullavan is equally good as Klara Novak. When we first meet her, she enters the shop looking for a job. Alfred tries to get rid of her, but she’s determined as she tries to get to see Mr. Matuschek. Very soon, Klara gets the job and she and Mr. Kralik are at loggerheads with each other.

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That scene when Alfred meets Klara in the restaurant where she’s supposed to have her mystery date and she says cruel remarks to him was pretty gut-wrenching. Although had Alfred told Klara that he was her mystery date, it would have saved a lot of bother and she would not be cruel to him.

Frank Morgan stars as Hugo Matuschek, the owner of Matuschek and Company in the film. Frank Morgan also played the Wizard in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with Judy Garland. I like Matuschek’s eccentric manner in this film, as it is slightly comedic as well as serious when he seemingly ill-treats Mr. Kralik.

Joseph Schildkraut stars as Mr. Vadas in the film. Vadas is a rather spoilt person who gets on everyone else’s nerves whilst working at Matuschek and Company. He also seems to earn a lot of money somehow and wear fancy clothes. Mr. Kralik doesn’t like him. Will he get a chance to rid him?

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There’s Felix Bressart as Mr. Pirovitch. This is Alfred Kralik’s best friend, who is a kindly family man that works at the shop. Pirovitch tries to keep out of the way when Matuschek asks for an honest opinion from anybody. He also shares in with Alfred’s letter writing with his pen pal lover in the film.

There’s also William Tracy as Pepi Katona. William Tracy has starred in one of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland’s films called ‘Strike Up The Band’. Pepi provides the comic relief in the film, as he’s the runner boy who wants to excel himself and impress Mr. Matuschek whilst he is working at the shop.

The cast also includes Sara Haden as Flora Kaczek; Inez Courtney as Ilona Novotny who work at the shop. I can’t say much about them as they don’t have major roles in this. The film focuses mainly on James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan’s characters. But the two ladies deliver decent performances.

I like how the film ends with Alfred Kralik and Klara Novak gradually realising they were each their pen pals whilst in the shop on Christmas Eve. It’s subtly played out and is not done over the top. It’s a beautifully written scene, as James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan’s performances are top notch.

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The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘A New Romance of Celluloid: The Miracle of Sound’ documentary; a theatrical trailer of the film; ‘A Great Story Is Worth Retelling’ and production notes.

the shop around the corner poster

‘The Shop Around The Corner’ is a decent film for me and one of my Dad’s favourites. I can’t say this is a favourite of mine, but I don’t mind it so much. It’s a nice little film with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. The film is slow-paced, but it does have some good drama, characters and twists.

‘The Shop Around The Corner’ rating – 7/10

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