Film Friday: The Shop Around the Corner

James StewartWhat if a man and woman exchanged mail anonymously, not realizing they actually knew—and thought they disliked—one another in their working lives. Does that plot sound familiar?

It should. The delightful 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner was remade into the musical In the Good Old Summertime and then into the 1990s hit, You’ve Got Mail.

The original stars Jimmy Stewart as Alfred Kralik and Margaret Sullavan as Klara Novak, two feuding clerks in a Hungarian leather goods shop. Early in the film we “meet” Mr. Kralik’s pen friend when he reads her letter to another clerk:

Shop Around the corner“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.” Somehow that line sounds naughtier when I write it…

But the zingers they hurl in person are far different than the warm, insightful letters they exchange.

MIss Novak: “I wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik. I know exactly what I’d find…instead of intellect, a cigarette lighter that doesn’t work.”

Mr. Kralik: “That’s a very interesting mixture of poetry and meanness.”

shop-glove2I could say they don’t make them like this anymore, but they do, three times and counting. Still, the first version of this boy-meets/hasn’t-met-girl story is well worth watching, a charmer from the period sets to the fine supporting cast. And as poignant post office scenes go, none can beat Margaret Sullavan searching an empty box 237 with her gloved hand before peering wistfully inside.

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3 thoughts on “Film Friday: The Shop Around the Corner

  1. Abigail Samoun says:

    Though I like YOU’VE GOT MAIL, its charm doesn’t compare to the original–the dialogue, as evident from the quotes you pulled, is so clever and fresh. They certainly don’t write screenplays like that anymore.

  2. Lynne says:

    We recently saw a very nice Hindi movie at the Laemmle in Pasadena – “The Lunch Box.” In that movie the lunch box a wife sends to her husband every day gets misdelivered (something that presumably never happens with the tiffin (lunch box) deliveries in Mumbai) and the 2 start a letter-writing correspondence. I think you would really like the movie! L

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