The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Ernst Lubitsch
1940 • 99 Minutes • 1.37 : 1 • United States

Principal Cast:  James Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut, Felix Bressart
Screenplay:  Samson Raphaelson based on the play by Miklós László
Producer:  Ernst Lubitsch
Cinematography:  William H. Daniels

Awards & Honors

American Film Registry
#28 - 100 Years... 100 Passions

The Essential Films
12 Days of Essential Christmas Films

National Film Registry
1999: Voted to be preserved in Library of Congress

Oh, my Dear Friend, my heart was trembling as I walked into the post office, and there you were, lying in Box 237. I took you out of your envelope and read you, read you right there. 

I have often said that I hate romantic comedies.  I feel they are formulaic, dull and predictable.  Furthermore, just as Playboy give men unrealistic expectations of women, romantic comedies are just as guilty of giving women unrealistic expectations of men.  The exception to this rule, of course, is any romantic comedy made before 1950.  This was a time when they weren't formulaic (well, maybe a little), the characters were fleshed out and developed, the stories were tight and well scripted, and, of course, the two leads were incredibly charming.  I mean, can you really compare Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart with Ashton Kutcher and Robert Pattinson?  No.  You can't.  I digress.  The Shop Around the Corner is a romantic comedy, plain and simple.  It's Christmas time and Klara (Margaret Sullivan) and Alfred (James Stewart) are both employees at the same baggage store, constantly competing for customers and THEY CAN'T STAND EACH OTHER.  Here's the kicker, though:  Each one of them has a pen pal that they've never met... and it just so happens that it turns out that they are each other's pen pal.  They write love letters to each other, not knowing that the person they are professing love to is someone they'd like to throw in front of a bus.  If this sounds familiar it's because it was unremarkably re-made in 1998 as You've Got Mail, this time with an e-mail angle.  Skip that one.  Watch this one.  Not very Christmas-y other than it takes place during the holidays, but it's charming, fun and probably one of the best romantic comedies ever filmed.