“The Shop Around the Corner” (1940) at Film Forum, December 25-31, 2014

James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in "The Shop Around the Corner" (1940), at Film Forum, December 25-31, 2014

James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940), at Film Forum, December 25-31, 2014

From December 25 – 31, Film Forum will present an archival 35mm print of director Ernst Lubitsch’s film, “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940). In plain English this means a very good print of a very nice movie.

I will admit that, prior to writing this article, I had not seen “The Shop Around the Corner.” As a teacher of film and sociology I am sometimes amazed at the films I have not yet seen. The advantage of this is that it allows me the joy of discovering new films and, in so doing, prevents me from becoming jaded. “The Shop Around the Corner” allowed me to accomplish both the former and the latter. As director and journalist Peter Bogdanovich said, at the 2010 TCM (Turner Classic Movie) Classic Film Festival, “If you haven’t seen it, then it’s not an old movie.” So, applying Mr. Bogdanovich’s words, I am happy to report that not only is “The Shop Around the Corner” not an “old movie” for me personally but, more important, it is a modern, relevant, literary, funny movie about characters dealing with core issues of the human experience – work, love, money, survival, happiness, security and finding a soul mate.

“The Shop Around the Corner” is based on a play and, although the movie has only a handful of sets, it never feels as if it is simply a filmed play. True to its theater pedigree, though, Lubitsch shot many of the scenes in extended takes which are executed beautifully. What I mean is that there is not a lot of editing within scenes and, as a result, the performances are not created in an editing room. The scenes play as whole units with actors who know how to, well, act, as well as interact with each other, much as they would on stage.

The film’s leads are played by James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as feuding workers in a store who are unaware that they are also romantic pen pals. In this pre-internet era they have met via a personal ad in a newspaper and have corresponded by mail. If this sounds familiar, “The Shop Around the Corner” was re-made as “You’ve Got Mail” (1998). Even though the technology has changed drastically since 1940, the emotions, desires and concerns of the characters in “The Shop Around the Corner” have not. As in today’s online dating scene, there is the allure of possibility, an allure which may, or may not, end when the people meet face to face.

All of the characters in the film represent different levels of social classes within the world of the store in which the movie takes place. Each character has a desire to raise his or her status and/or improve financially or emotionally. The very fine supporting cast includes Frank Morgan, William Tracy, Joseph Schildkraut and Inez Courtney.

Film Forum is located at 209 West Houston Street (west of 6th Avenue). For more information visit http://www.filmforum.org.


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on December 22, 2014, in Film Forum and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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