The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
Two employees of a Budapest shop can’t stand each other but they are secretly falling in love as anonymous correspondents.
The story of Alfred (James Stewart) and Klara (Magaret Sullavan) became the example of the perfect romantic comedy rassembling all the elements a cute and funny plot must have to conquer any romantic and even every cynic of the genre. A good part of this quality comes from the script written by Samson Raphaelson based on the play Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo. Another important aspect of this film is the directing of Ernst Lubitsch with his flair for sophisticated comedies and intelligent romances. Finally, the presence of Stewart and Sullavan as the two lovers to become is pitch perfect.
In fact, Stewart is often praised as one of the most iconic actors of all time. Well, in this case, Margaret Sullavan might have stolen the show with her performance of the young woman who falls in love with a vulnerability but also a good sense of self esteem.
For many film lovers, this is Ernst Lubitsch’s masterpiece and since I have seen most of his major films it is pretty right that The Shop Around the Corner is an outstanding movie. Added to that, it has this spirit of Christmas that even It’s A Wonderful Life doesn’t carry. In its way of finding love and also looking at the people around us with a new look and giving yourself a second chance.
Some years ago, one of the most respected blogger/film critic named Ed Howard wrote a wonderful piece on this film that he listed as one of those films he loves. Honestly, I can also state that I share this love for this film that has a charm and that reminds us how Christmas is magic because we make it this way and not just because of the shopping and the tremendous amounts of food. It is about humans getting together and sharing great moments. Lubitsch had a wit and a whole lot of humanity that few filmmakers had.
This is for all these reasons that The Shop Around the Corner is cited in so many lists of the greatest films of all time and not just as one of the greatest classics of Christmas movies. I would suggest to begin with this film if you haven’t watch a Lubitsch film. A near-masterpiece.