12 Days of Christmas Movies: THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER

The_Shop_Around_the_Corner_-_1940-_PosterThe final movie in this list is Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner.  Based on a 1937 Hungarian play, it tells the tale of warring co-workers who are actually conducting an anonymous love affair through lonelyhearts letters.  (If this sounds familiar, Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail is based on this movie.)

Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan play the dueling lovers with Frank Morgan as their boss.  Others in the cast include Joseph Schildkraut as a cad, Inez Courtney as a bad girl with a heart of gold, Sara Haden, Felix Bressart, and William Tracy as other workers.  There are mixups and confusions in the quiet, leisurely paced romantic comedy.  Stewart plays a character who is not completely noble – he has fun teasing Sullavan when he realizes who she is, but knows she hasn’t a clue he is the correspondent.  Sullavan is a delight too.  The rest of the cast giddily inhabit their roles.

The movie ends with the characters all getting what they deserved.  However there is a layer of poignancy. Given its setting of (an unnamed) Budapest in the late 1930s, the audience knows what they don’t – the Nazis will soon be marching through and destroying happiness.  At the time the film was released, the US was not yet in World War II, and the outcome was far from certain.

The movie ends on Christmas Eve.  It is during a gift exchange that the (probably temporary) happy endings unfold for the characters.

This film and the European play also inspired the MGM musical In the Good Old Summertime (set in a music store) and the Broadway musical She Loves Me.  Of all the remakes, only She Loves Me keeps the setting in Budapest in the late 1930s, and thus the added layer of poignancy.