The Shop Around the Corner (1940)



Critic Consensus: Deftly directed by Ernst Lubitsch from a smart, funny script by Samson Raphaelson, The Shop Around the Corner is a romantic comedy in the finest sense of the term.

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Movie Info

The Shop Around the Corner is adapted from the Hungarian play by Nikolaus (Miklos) Laszlo. Budapest gift-shop clerk Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) and newly hired shopgirl Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) hate each other almost at first sight. Kralik would prefer the company of the woman with whom he is corresponding by mail but has never met. Novak likewise carries a torch for her male pen pal, whom she also has never laid eyes on. It doesn't take a PhD degree to figure out that Kralik and Novak have been writing letters to each other. The film's many subplots are carried by Frank Morgan as the kindhearted shopkeeper and by Joseph Schildkraut as a backstabbing employee whose comeuppance is sure to result in spontaneous applause from the audience. Directed with comic delicacy by Ernst Lubitsch, this was later remade in 1949 as In the Good Old Summertime, and in 1998 as You've Got Mail. It was also musicalized as the 1963 Broadway production She Loves Me. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Classics , Comedy , Drama , Romance
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Margaret Sullavan
as Klara Novak
James Stewart
as Alfred Kralik
Frank Morgan
as Hugo Matuschek
Joseph Schildkraut
as Ferencz Vadas
Sara Haden
as Flora
Felix Bressart
as Pirovitch
William Tracy
as Pepi Katona
Charles Halton
as Detective
Sarah Edwards
as Woman Customer
Gertrude Simpson
as Woman Customer
Grace Hayle
as Plump Woman
Charles Arnt
as Policeman
Mary Carr
as Grandmother
Mabel Colcord
as Aunt Anna
Renie Riano
as Customer
Claire Du Brey
as Customer
Ruth Warren
as Customer
Joan Blair
as Customer
Mira McKinney
as Customer
Edwin Maxwell
as Doctor
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Critic Reviews for The Shop Around the Corner

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (5)

As the plot has as many complications as characters, much of the fun comes in watching Scripter Samson Raphaelson neatly tangle and untangle them without tying himself in a hard knot.

Full Review… | December 5, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Although picture carries the indelible stamp of Ernst Lubitsch at his best in generating humor and human interest from what might appear to be unimportant situations, it carries further to impress via the outstanding characterizations by Margaret Sullavan

Full Review… | November 27, 2007
Top Critic

This 1940 film is one of Ernst Lubitsch's finest and most enduring works, a romantic comedy of dazzling range.

Full Review… | November 27, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Thoroughly different from To Be or Not To Be but just as exhilarating, it's one of the few films truly justifying Lubitsch's reputation for a 'touch.'

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

...a pretty kettle of bubbling brew it makes under Mr. Lubitsch's deft and tender management and with a genial company to play it gently, well this side of farce and well that side of utter seriousness.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

The charm of the gimmick in Lubitsch's take is passed over quickly in favor of studying both its effects on those involved, as well as the dynamics of the workplace at large.

Full Review… | December 22, 2014
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Shop Around the Corner

This romantic comedy, from legendary Ernst Lubitsch, was the original inspiration for the nauseatingly trite "You've Got Mail," but is centered on Budapest life rather than urban New York City. Lubitsch set the story in Budapest, his home town, and featured the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as beguiled co-workers, who aren't aware that they are each the other's anonymous pen pals. Throughout their strange courtship we find out about an affair between a co-worker and the shop's owner's wife, watch a Christmastime rush at the shop and a game that eventually unravels the truth. Besides the great performances from our two leads, all the supporting characters are kooky or sweet, and the antics within the store are just as interesting and entertaining to watch as the chemistry between Stewart and Sullavan. The small town charm of Budapest is also a central character, making this film an all-time romantic comedy classic.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

A Hungarian clerk falls in love with a pen pal who turns out to be his co-worker, with whom he has an antagonistic relationship. A remarkably dark romantic comedy, The Shop Around the Corner falls well short of charming (any claim it has to that adjective comes in the person of the naturally delightful Jimmy Stewart). Instead subplots of infidelity and a failing business cloud whatever romantic juice can be squeezed out of the primary plotline. The film is not boring nor are the characters bland, but the heavy air of the Hungarian milieu and the heavier subplots bring the story to a slow climb toward nothing interesting. Overall, I suspect the modern You've Got Mail might have a better tone but less substance, and as a whole, this story feels too uneven.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Lubitsch lends his featherlight comic zest to that most claustrophobic of spaces: the workplace. In this case its a small leather goods retail store where the staff see each other monotonous day in and monotonous day out. The focus is on a young man who happens to be the senior clerk (nowadays that'd be "associate") who pines for a woman he's only written to, meeting her from an ad in the paper (nowadays that'd be Facebook or some such). The comedy happens that his love might be far different in person than on paper. Nobody's perfect in this souffle, which only adds to the taste as it rises.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

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