However, six years before, in 1940, Stewart starred in The Shop Around the Corner, a lesser-known movie that is often overlooked, possibly because it doesn’t follow the traditional holiday formula, or it because wasn’t directed by Frank Capra. It does, however, take place during the holiday season and come to its touching conclusion on Christmas Eve.
As a fan of old movies, I‘m ashamed to say I discovered this gem only six years ago when I caught it on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) one night. For almost two hours, I was caught up in snappy, quick-witted dialogue (something lost in today’s movies), romance and intrigue (it takes place in a gift shop in Budapest), and the glamorous style of that era (I adore the suits and hats women used to wear every day).
Stewart’s plays Mr. Kralik, a character much like the one he’s played in It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or any of his other films. He’s made a career out of playing the humble good guy and he does so brilliantly. His co-star is the equally talented Margaret Sullavan, an actor I’m not too familiar with, but who’s made plenty of movies according to IMDB. Together they play two bickering co-workers who can barely stand to be in the same room, yet unknowingly are falling in love by mail as each other’s secret pen pal.
If the plot sounds familiar, it’s because Nora Ephron borrowed it for her screenplay, You’ve Got Mail, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I liked Ephron’s version, but now that I’ve seen the original, I realize there is no comparison. Check out the comparison in the video clip below. If if you want to catch the movie in its entirety, TCM is running it this month on December 15, at 8 p.m.