The Shop Around the Corner
Ernst Lubitsch's earnestly heartwarming 1940 romantic comedy stars Jimmy Stewart as Alfred Kralik, the young head salesman for a Budapest retailer Matuschek and Co. Alfred has regular personality clashes with his co-worker Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan). Problem is, each has been writing romantic letters to an anonymous pen pal without knowing that the object of their affection, naturally, is their despised co-worker. Lubitsch perfectly places this effective romance against a nuanced backdrop of small but significant details in the daily lives of the shop's other employees, building toward a Christmas Eve when everything comes to a head. This film's sexual sparring operates like a great screwball comedy slowed down a few notches; think It Happened One Night dosed with NyQuil. As such, The Shop Around the Corner doesn't shimmer as Lubitsch's unbeatable Trouble in Paradise does, nor does it scale the same heights of hilarity as do the Billy Wilder-penned Lubitsch treats Ninotchka and Bluebeard's Eighth Wife. Still, the degree of warmth emanating from this film is extremely rare in film history; that's a strong endorsement coming from someone inveterately prejudiced against heartwarming pictures involving both Jimmy Stewart and Christmas.