Movie: The Shop Around The Corner (1940)


My take:

One of my favorite movies of all time is You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  I love the simplistic nature of it, although it is now “dated” with the concept of dial-up internet.  There were no gratuitous sex scenes or macabre violence.  It was the story of a man and a woman who started as enemies and ended as loves.  The store owned by Meg Ryan in that movie is called “The Shop Around The Corner”.  I knew there was a connection but hadn’t had the opportunity to see it.  Last night I realized I could download a Turner Classic Movies app to my smart TV and not be required to watch commercials and while scrolling through the oldies but goodies, found this.  It wasn’t a long movie and I thought “sure”.  I am glad I decided to watch it.  There is so much overlapping between the two movies and it was fun to see how they morphed from the 1940s to the 1998 version.  It translates very well to be a 77 year old film.

Something that threw me off is that the movie is “set in Budapest, Hungary”.  Well, all American accents (except for Felix Bressart, born in Germany).  They showed none of the culture of Hungary, nothing that would make me say “oh, Hungary!”  I found that so odd.   (I looked up stats to find that it was adapted from a Hungarian play – so, I kinda get it now.)  An additional fact about Felix Bressart – he was forced to leave Germany after the Nazis took power in 1933.  He made his way to America via Switzerland and France.  He shared this common story with Ernst Lubitsh, the film’s director, who made sure he maintained steady employment.

One of the best scenes (in both of the movies) is the realization of (in this movie by) Alfred that Klara (a coworker is a royal pain) is the person he has been anonymously corresponding (and falling in love) with.  In You’ve Got Mail, this scene plays out With Tom Hanks (and Dave Chappell as his wingman) outside of Cafe Lalo (

From The Shop Around the Corner: Klara: [In her letter to Alfred] : 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.

From You’ve Got Mail: Kathleen: I like to start my notes to you as if we’re already in the middle of a conversation. I pretend that we’re the oldest and dearest friends — as opposed to what we actually are, people who don’t know each other’s names and met in an “Over 30” chat room where we both claimed we’d never been before. What will NY152 say today, I wonder. I turn on my computer, I wait impatiently as it boots up. I go on line, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You’ve got mail. I hear nothing, not even a sound on the streets of New York, just the beat of my own heart. I have mail. From you.

I find the writing in both to be delightful.

Have you watched one (or both)?  Did you like it (them)?  Let me know in the comments below!


IMDB Synopsis: 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.




For $2.99 you can watch the whole movie on YouTube:

Or, if you have cable (+) a smart TV, download the TCM app and watch for free without commericals.

Additional Movie Info:

It received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 100% Fresh (FIRST time I have EVER seen that rating).  It received a Rotten Tomato audience rating of 91% liking it.  Average Rating: 4.1/5 with a number of User Ratings: 11,759.

Movie Reviews:

Specs:  Release date: 12 January 1940 (USA) / Also known as Shopworn Angel / Runtime: 99 minutes / Budget: $500,000

IMDB Trivia:

  • Soon after wrapping principal photography, Ernst Lubitsch talked to the New York Sun in January 1940. “It’s not a big picture, just a quiet little story that seemed to have some charm. It didn’t cost very much, for such a cast, under $500,000. It was made in twenty-eight days. I hope it has some charm.”
  • In the Book “Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise”, Ernst Lubitsch called this film “the best picture I ever made in my life.”
  • According to Bright Lights Film Journal website, When Kralik mentions “You read Zola’s Madame Bovary,” Klara immediately corrects him: “Madame Bovary is not by Zola,” she snipes. The joke here is that though Klara knows who wrote Madame Bovary, she doesn’t understand that she herself is living exclusively in Emma Bovary’s world of impossible ideals.
  • James Stewart was at the top of Ernst Lubitsch‘s list to play the simple Alfred Kralik because the actor was “the antithesis of the old-time matinée idol; he holds his public by his very lack of a handsome face or suave manner.”
  • “The Screen Guild Theater” broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on September 29, 1940 with Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan reprising their film roles.
  • The original source material for this plot, the 1937 play “Illatszertár” (in English, titled “Parfumerie”) by the Hungarian writer Miklós László, has been adapted into numerous other movies and plays. The first film adaptation was The Shop Around the Corner (1940) starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart. The first musical adaptation was In the Good Old Summertime (1949), which starred Judy Garland and Van Johnson. In 1963, a second musical adaptation, She Loves Me, premiered on Broadway; its first production, which starred Daniel Massey as Georg Nowack and Barbara Cook, was a critical success but a box-office disappointment. A 1993 Broadway revival (starring Boyd Gaines and Judy Kuhn) was more successful, and another Broadway revival (with Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, and Jane Krakowski) opened in 2016.


Final You’ve Got Mail Quote:

[last lines]

Joe Fox: Don’t cry, Shopgirl. Don’t cry.

Kathleen Kelly: I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.


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