Shop Around the Corner,The/A,B

MGM/1940/100m/FS 1.33


     The Shop Around The Corner is a film that epitomizes Hollywood at its tasteful best. Though sentimental, it never lapses into bathos; its charm does not step over the line into cuteness. Ernst Lubitsch achieves his finest directorial moments in this lovingly realized romantic comedy set in pre World War II Budapest viewed through an immigrant's veil of longing memory. As producer and director, Lubitsch has cast his film as a jeweler selecting gems for his finest creation. The effortless style of James Stewart infuses shop manager Alfred Kralik with a convincing touches of honesty and acid, romance and practicality. Stewart can deliver lines like , "And I'd like to take this opportunity Miss Novak to, inform you, that I don't walk like a duck and I'm not bowlegged," without missing a beat. This is one of Stewart's most appealing screen roles. Playing opposite Stewart for the fourth and final time, Margaret Sullavan is a radiant Klara Novak. The development of their delightfully rocky romance is the fulcrum on which the various elements of the film balance beautifully.

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Frank Morgan and Ernst Lubitsch in the theatrical trailer from The Shop Around the Corner ©MGM

   Frank Morgan's Hugo Matuschek, proprietor of the gift shop where the Stewart/Sullavan love-hate relationship evolves, provides able support, as do stock player Felix Bressart and a surprisingly oily Joseph Schildkraut.
     There is an overall magic that surrounds this production by Lubitsch. The stylized sets of the streets of Budapest are not meant to be realistic; when the snow falls in perfect flakes, it reinforces a fairy tale quality to the story. The deft "Lubitsch Touch" is perfectly in tune to the characters and their world, transparently transporting the audience along for the ride. The director allows the emotions of the characters to communicate themselves naturally out of the plot and dialogue. The absence of a musical soundtrack displays confidence that the Lubitsch audience needs no extraneous scoring to reinforce how they are to respond to his characters and situations.
     The disc presentation of this classic film is very good visually. The elegant range of filmed blacks and whites is accurately reproduced in the transfer. There are few noticeable blemishes. The soundtrack shows its age with a persistent scratchiness as well as a annoying low level hum, perhaps all the more obvious because of the absence of a background score. Along with the original theatrical trailer, MGM has included an interesting short subject on the power that lights the movies to open the disc program.


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