From the Self-Promotion Department: The Shop Around the Corner at the Brooks Thursday Night



The Brooks Museum of Art's ongoing "Reel to Real" series, in which Memphians involved in the city's film and arts scene select and introduce films, continues this Thursday night. The host for this edition is, um, me.

Margaret Sullavan, Jimmy Stewart, and Frank Morgan in the neglected masterpiece  The Shop Around the Corner .
  • Margaret Sullavan, Jimmy Stewart, and Frank Morgan in the neglected masterpiece The Shop Around the Corner .
Because Memphis audiences have displayed such a ravenous appetite for classic Hollywood films not named Casablanca or Gone With the Wind or directed by Alfred Hitchcock, I'm showing Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 romantic/workplace comedy The Shop Around the Corner, selected because it's probably my favorite film that A) isn't widely known and B) as far as I know hasn't screened locally (at least since it's original run).

The film stars Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan as a pair of bickering clerks at Matuschek's, a little leather-good's shop in Budapest. They spar during their workdays while each is secretly pursuing an anonymous romance with a pen pal, not realizing that they've been writing to each other. This romantic conceit plays out against the backdrop of the shop, the primary location and a complicated source of stability for its employees against the very uncertain backdrop of post-Depression, pre-WWII Budapest.

The screening is at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Brooks, preceded by a (hopefully brief) introduction from me. Admission is $6 for museum members, $8 for nonmembers.

I'll make a somewhat more detailed case for the film tomorrow night, but here are some second opinions on The Shop Around the Corner:

"a neglected masterpiece" — Andrew Sarris

"Close to perfection — one of the most beautifully acted and paced romantic comedies ever made in this country." — Pauline Kael

"… out of all this emerges something fit for Shakespeare or Mozart — that the head and the heart fall in love at different speeds. This is a comedy in which earnestness or gravity endangers true love. Moral of it all: The Shop Around the Corner was nominated for nothing in 1940. Neither did Lubitsch ever win an Oscar. That's how good Hollywood was then: The gems were smuggled out with the costume jewelry." — David Thomson

"This 1940 film is one of Ernst Lubitsch's finest and most enduring works, a romantic comedy of dazzling range that takes place almost entirely within the four walls of a leather-goods store in prewar Budapest. James Stewart is the earnest, slightly awkward young manager; Margaret Sullavan is the new sales clerk who gets on his nerves—and neither realizes that they are partners in a passionate romance being carried out through the mails. Interwoven with subplots centered on the other members of the shop's little family, the romance proceeds through Lubitsch's brilliant deployment of point of view, allowing the audience to enter the perceptions of each individual character at exactly the right moment to develop maximum sympathy and suspense." — David Kehr

And here's the promotional trailer for the film from its initial release:


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