Sunday, July 30, 2017


(Post 14 of 20)

 Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart bicker
in The Shop Around the Corner
as boss Frank Morgan looks on

The Shop Around the Corner may me known more to modern day audiences as one of the inspirations for The Tom Hanks movie We've Got Mail. It's also not in the 1001 book...and it was released in January of 1940 , but by golly I'm making an entry for it in More 1001 Movies from the 30's anyway!

The film is directed by Ernest Lubitsch and the screenplay is by Samuel Raphaelson, who collaborated on the classic Trouble in Paradise. Screenplay credit (at least belatedly) also goes to Ben Hecht who collaborated with Lubitsch on Design for Living.

The plot involves the goings on in a Budapest leather goods store featuring top salesman Kralik (Jimmy Stewart), his demanding boss Matuschek (Frank Morgan), the shady salesman (Joseph Schildkrauf) and family man Pirovitch (Felix Bressart). Their lives get complicated with the hiring of the pretty and opinionated Miss Novak (Margaret Sullavan). The plot involves the intrigue, back stabbing and mistaken identity that goes on at the store...including the budding romance between Kralik and Miss Novak. They don't like each other very much for most of the movie, but I think we know that will change by the end credits.

It's a fun romp with engaging performers and I am definitely a Lubitsch fan...which is why I added this film to my list in the first place. I also really like that little leather goods shop. Next time I'm in Budapest, I'll see if it's still there...

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to...Margaret Sullivan. I don't think I had ever seen a movie with Margaret Sullivan until I saw her in the war drama The Mortal Storm (Also, released in 1940 and also starring Jimmy Stewart). I thought she was quite good in that and was surprised she didn't get an Academy Award nomination for it (neither did the film). 

Margaret Sullavan hoping that Jimmy Stewart will leave
so she will meet her blind date who she doesn't know is
actually Jimmy Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner

 In The Shop Around the Corner, she gets to show off her comic chops as the girl who Stewart eventually gets around to dating once he discovers he actually likes her and she discovers she likes him and they go through the whole mistaken identity thing before coming together at the end of the film.

Sullivan was one of the top leading ladies of Hollywood from 1933-1943, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Three Comrades in 1938. Yet, she isn't really held in the same regard as other of her contemporaries of the era. This is probably because her she pretty much quit making films after 1943. Her later life was definitely the stuff of drama involving mental illness, physical infirmity, drug addiction, family problems and a premature death in 1960 at the age of 50.

Haywire, a  TV mini-series based on her daughter's book about Sullavan's life was broadcast  in 1980.

I think Haywire by Brooke Hayward and Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford  might make an interesting reading double feature for those so inclined...


  1. I love this film but I always think of it as a 30's film as well. 1939 specifically, I guess the superior quality of it makes me lump it in with that golden year.

    Margaret Sullavan is one of my favorite classic film actresses and I regret that she isn't better known. She was unique and having seen all her small output of films, except the elusive The Moon's Our Home, can say she never gave a bad performance. I think that scarcity of films is part of the reason for the lack of public awareness aided by the fact that she apparently hated filmmaking seeing them as a necessary evil to allow her to work on her true love the stage and still make a living so she only did them when she had to. A shame she's a bewitching presence, that rough scratch in her voice conveys so much.

    Jimmy Stewart is aces as well, if he had to win a consolation Oscar for losing for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington I wish it had been for this much deeper performance than his delightful but hardly challenging Philadelphia Story one.

    As much as I think both of them are wonderful and disarming for me the film's standout performance is Frank Morgan's absolutely magnificent account of Mr. Matuschek. How the hell he missed out on a nomination in a year that saw Walter Brennan win an unnecessary third award is a mystery I'll never understand.
    His last scene with Rudy the new delivery boy is a delicate thing of beauty.

    But then everyone in the cast is pitch perfect and Lubitsch's direction spot on so I can't fathom how it came up completely empty handed in the Oscar race that year. Well hindsight I guess.

    I've seen both remakes, Judy Garland's In the Good Old Summertime is quaint but absent the pathos of this original though it has some lovely songs. You've Got Mail gives me a headache.

    I read Haywire when it came out and it made me sad that such a talented group of people could be so plagued by illness and misfortune. It was much more even handed and clear eyed than Mommie Dearest. Brooke Hayward saw her parents as they seemed to be, loving but flawed people who while often self absorbed cared for them deeply. It seemed like she and her brother had reached some sort of understanding of their issues at the end of the book so I was saddened to read several years ago that William Hayward also committed suicide.

    There was a good TV adaptation of the book in the 80's with Lee Remick as Maggie Sullavan and Jason Robards as Leland Hayward.

  2. Thank you for all of your insights! I think I may also put this film aside to show at the library around Christmas when I'm looking for something older with a holiday theme that isn't really one of the standard classics.