AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Shop Around the Corner
Director: Ernst Lubitsch (Dir)
Release Date:   12 Jan 1940
Production Date:   early Nov--5 Dec 1939
Duration (in mins):   97 or 100
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Margaret Sullavan (Klara Novak)  
    James Stewart (Alfred Kralik)  
    Frank Morgan (Hugo Matuschek)  
    Joseph Schildkraut (Ferencz Vadas)  
    Sara Haden (Flora)  
    Felix Bressart (Pirovitch)  
    William Tracy (Pepi Katona)  
    Inez Courtney (Ilona)  
    Sarah Edwards (Woman customer)  
    Edwin Maxwell (Doctor)  
    Charles Halton (Detective)  
    Charles Smith (Rudy)  
    Grace Hayle (Plump woman)  
    Charlie Arnt (Policeman)  
    Gertrude Simpson (Woman customer)  
    William Edmunds (Waiter)  
    Mary Carr (Grandmother)  
    Mabel Colcord (Aunt Anna)  
    Renie Riano (Customer)  
    Claire Du Brey (Customer)  
    Ruth Warren (Customer)  
    Joan Blair (Customer)  
    Mira McKinney (Customer)  

Summary: At the Budapest shop Matuschek and Company, work Pepi Katona, the snippy errand boy, Pirovitch, the mild-mannered clerk, Alfred Kralik, the bashful yet lovestruck head clerk, the duplicitious Ferencz Vadas, and clerks Ilona and Flora. Each morning, the six line up in front of the shop to await the arrival of their boss, Hugo Matuschek, and while waiting one day, Alfred confides to his friend Pirovitch that he has answered a blind personal ad in the newspaper and has entered into a romance through the post. That morning, Klara Novak enters the shop, looking for a job, and although Alfred turns her down, Matuschek decides to hire the girl when she talks a customer into buying a cigarette box that plays "Otchi Tchorniye," an item which Matuschek loves, but Alfred hates. At work, Klara and Alfred argue incessently, never suspecting that they are carrying on a tender romance through the mail, as Klara is Alfred's secret correspondent. Through their anonymously signed letters, the lovers agree to meet for the first time at a cafe, but that night, Matuschek, thinking that Alfred is the man a private detective agency reports is having an affair with his wife, fires the clerk. Later, when the detective that Matuschek has hired informs him that his wife is actually having an affair with Vadas, he despairs and tries to end his life, but is saved by Pepi. Meanwhile, Alfred arrives at his rendezvous and is astonished to discover that his secret love is Klara. He approaches her as a co-worker and does not divulge his secret identity, and when she berates him, he leaves. Later that night, Alfred is summoned to the hospital bed of the ailing Matuschek who appoints him store manager and begs him for forgiveness. After firing Vadas, Alfred rallies the store employees, and on Christmas Eve, Matuschek returns to a happy reunion of his employee family in the shop. Once everyone else has departed, Klara confides to Alfred that she finds him attractive, and he finally reveals himself as her secret lover. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Ernst Lubitsch (Dir)
  Horace Hough (Asst dir)
Producer: Ernst Lubitsch (Prod)
Writer: Samson Raphaelson (Scr)
Photography: William Daniels (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Wade B. Rubottom (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Gene Ruggiero (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
Music: Werner R. Heymann (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Miss Sullavan's hairstyles)
Production Misc: Arthur Rose (Unit mgr)
Country: United States

Music: "Otchi Tchorniye," traditional.
Source Text: Based on the play Illatszertár (also known as Perfumerie ) by Nikolaus László (copyrighted 10 Nov 1936).
Authors: Nikolaus László

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 9/1/1940 dd/mm/yyyy LP9552 Yes

PCA NO: 5967
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): False accusations
  Impersonation and imposture
Subjects (Minor): Attempted suicide
  Budapest (Hungary)
  Christmas Eve
  Delivery men
  Dismissal (Employment)
  Employer-employee relations
  Music boxes
  Stores, Retail

Note: According to DV news items, the rights to the Nikolaus László play on which this film was based were originally purchased by Ernst Lubitsch in 1938 with the intention to film it in an independent "share-the-profits" deal with Myron Selznick using his own company, Ernst Lubitsch Productions. Negotiations for the film's release were conducted with Paramount, RKO and United Artists, and Lubitsch planned to begin filming at the end of Oct 1938, but the deal failed to materialize, and when Lubitsch signed with M-G-M in Jan 1939, he included the story property in the deal with the proviso that he direct it. A Nov 1938 NYT news item indicated that Lubitsch purchased the rights to the play for approximately $7,500. A Jul 1938 LAT news item noted that Dolly Haas was originally set to appear in the picture. DV reported in Oct 1938 that Janet Gaynor was the likely candidate for the female lead. According to a Jan 1940 NYHT article, "all scenes in the film were shot in the order in which they occur in the narrative." Studio publicity material indicates that because Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart were not available at the time that production was originally set to begin, Lubitsch decided to postpone the start date and wait until they were available. While waiting for Sullavan and Stewart, Lubitsch worked on Ninotchka (see above). A 1940 HR news item notes that Stewart and Sullavan were set to recreate their roles for a 29 Sep radio version of Shop Around the Corner on the Gulf-Screen Guild Show. Another film based on László's play was the 1949 musical M-G-M picture In the Good Old Summertime , directed by Robert Z. Leonard and starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson. A musical stage version of the play, entitled She Loves Me , opened in New York on 23 Apr 1963. She Loves Me was later produced as a teleplay by BBC, and aired on the PBS network on 19 Dec 1979. László's play also served as the inspiration for both the 1949 film In the Good Old Summertime , directed by Robert Z. Leonard and starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson (see above) and 1998's You've Got Mail , directed by Nora Ephron and starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   23 Sep 38   p. 1.
Daily Variety   15 Oct 38   pp. 1-2.
Daily Variety   12 Nov 38   p. 4.
Daily Variety   3 Jan 39   p. 1.
Daily Variety   2 Jan 40   p. 3.
Film Daily   8 Jan 40   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Oct 39   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Nov 39   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jan 40   p. 3.
Los Angeles Times   28 Jul 1940.   
Motion Picture Daily   8 Jan 40   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald   30 Dec 39   p. 52.
Motion Picture Herald   6 Jan 40   p. 42.
New York Herald Tribune   21 Jan 1940.   
New York Times   11 Nov 1938.   
New York Times   26 Jan 40   p. 13.
Variety   10 Jan 40   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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