The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Great Movie Re-Watch

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)


Ernst Lubitsch


Samson Raphaelson


Margaret Sullavan

James Stewart

Frank Morgan

Joseph Schildkraut


Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand each other, without realizing that they are falling in love through the post as each other’s anonymous pen pal.


You’ve Got Mail was inspired by this movie. Even if you didn’t know, specific conversations in the film should clue you in. At least two are almost verbatim. The Shop Around the Corner is not the original of this story, though. That would belong to a Hungarian play titled Parfumerie by Miklós László. You’ve Got Mail is also not the only adaption. I have another version of this story that is coming up relatively soon, In the Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland. I clearly like this story. I should probably look into the play.

This film is from the 40s, so it’s very dated, especially in its views of women. Clara, Margaret Sullavan, talks a lot about how she won’t have to work anymore because she’ll be married soon. Kralik, James Stewart, discusses supporting a family on his salary.

I want to take a step back and focus on that for a moment. Kralik was a sales clerk. He had worked at the store the longest, so had more responsibilities, but he was still a sales clerk. There was also another clerk there that was married and had children. They were able to support a family on the salary of a sales clerk. Eighty years ago, one person could support themselves, in a city, on the salary of a retail worker. Sure, this was set in Hungary, but it was made for American audiences. Can you imagine a salesperson in a department store being able to support a family nowadays? It’s mind-boggling.

Back to the movie. Writing letters and falling in love in that way is one of my favorite tropes. It feels like the ultimate romantic storyline. Two people, who’ve never met, fall in love through words. In some cases, it’s so much easier to be yourself through words. Of course, it’s also easier to deceive, but I prefer to think of the previous scenario.

Obviously, I’m keeping this movie. It’s one I re-watch fairly frequently, even though I only own it on DVD. I should probably look into upgrading that, actually.


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