Today is July 13, the 13th day in #CleanMovieMonth here at PEPS! Here at PEPS, July is all about celebrating the clean movies from the Code era and exploring the benefits of pure entertainment. Read more about #CleanMovieMonth here.
Today is the beginning of the Winter in July Blogathon at Moon in Gemini. I compliment Debbie for the originality of this idea, as well as her bravery. After all, today is Friday, and it is the 13th. Congratulations, Debbie! As a matter of fact, I began my first blogathon, The Great Breening Blogathon, on Friday, the 13th of October. We don’t mind flying in the face of superstition!
Today I am writing about a dramatic film from 1940. Debbie’s blogathon made my film choice for today very easy. I have agreed to write about two wintery Code films. I am starting with The Shop Around the Corner, Ernst Lubitsch’s poignant romance set in Budapest starring James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, and Frank Morgan.
A young girl named Klara Novak applies for a job at a store in Budapest, Matuschek and Company. The store is owned by an excitable old man named Hugo Matuschek. His current employees include Alfred Kralik, his best salesman and trusted friend, a meek family man named Pirovitch, a shifty sniveler and a notorious people-pleaser named Vadas, Flora, a kind and unassuming woman, a hard-working young woman named Ilona, and a mischievous delivery boy named Pepi. Mr. Matuschek can’t afford to hire any more help, so Miss Novak is turned away. However, she warms the boss’s heart when she admires an item he has just purchased for the store, a cigarette box that plays “Ochi Tchorjna.” When she cleverly sells one to a woman as a figure-slimming candy box, Mr. Matuschek hires her. Working at the store is not particularly pleasant for her, however, since she can’t get along with Mr. Kralik. He gives her a hard time, and she makes fun of him. She complains to Ilona, and he gossips with Pirovitch. However, Klara can forget all the unpleasant events of the working day when she goes the post office and finds a letter from her secret epistolary sweetheart, whom she calls “Dear Friend.” She and an anonymous young man began writing months ago when he answered her ad in a newspaper seeking an intellectual correspondent. However, as their letters have increased, they have grown very fond of each other, and intellectualism has turned into romance. They have fallen in love, yet they still don’t know each other’s names. Meanwhile, Alfred has a secret romance of his own. He too has a romantic pen pal whom he loves but has never met. Klara bitterly contrasts the differences between her noble, romantic, lofty correspondent and the unkind, mean-spirited, dull fellow with whom she works. At the same time, Alfred unfavorably compares the bitter, nasty, spinsterly shrew with whom he works to his sweet, intelligent, spiritual correspondent. Neither would guess in his wildest imagination that his bitter rival is his secret sweetheart! Meanwhile, Mr. Matuschek is beginning to treat Alfred rather strangely. He used to treat him like his own son, since he is his oldest employee and has worked his way up in his store. He used to invite him to his house for dinner and trust him with a lot of responsibility. Now, he avoids him and acts suspiciously. Alfred would never guess that his employer has deep, dark doubts about him and his wife. Will mistrust ruin Mr. Kralik’s relationship with Mr. Matuschek? Will Alfred and Klara ever discover each other’s true identities? Will they still care for each other when they find out that they have been writing to each other? Watch this film to find out!
Alfred Kralik is played by James Stewart. Klara Novak is played by Margaret Sullavan. Mr. Matuschek is played by Frank Morgan. Vadas is played by Joseph Schildkraut. Flora is played by Sara Haden. Pirovitch is played by Felix Bressart. Pepi is played by William Tracy. Ilona is played by Inez Courtney.
This movie is based on a very popular story. It began as a Hungarian play called Illatszertár or Parfumerie in 1937. The Shop Around the Corner was the first adaption of it. However, it was certainly not the last. In 1949, it was remade as a musical starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson, In the Good Old Summertime. In 1963, it was made a stage musical called She Loves Me. In 1998, it was made into another film, You’ve Got Mail. It has also been made into several television films.
This is a perfect Code film. It is wonderful to see a movie directed by Ernst Lubitsch which is so delicate. The story could have been unacceptable if it had not been carefully self-regulated by Joseph Breen, since it handled some very difficult subjects. However, it handled these potentially troublesome elements so well that it was elevated from an average Code film to a superior one. As I have said in other articles during #CleanMovieMonth, many perfect Code films are perfect because they are more than free from objection. They are special because they couldn’t have been made decently if the Code wasn’t in place. The Code was necessary to make them was they are.
Both The Shop Around the Corner and In the Good Old Summertime are Code films. They both are good Code films. However, In the Good Old Summertime is a much lighter film. It is a cheerful, comedic musical, whereas its original was a serious drama. Most people would probably say that the 1949 film is the more family-friendly of the two. This is largely because the remake chose to eliminate the situation with the shop owner’s wife. However, I say that they are equally family-friendly.
In the Good Old Summer Time is a great example of the Code’s powers because it handles the subject of infidelity perfectly. The important things in handling such cases of infidelity are delicacy and keeping sympathy on the side of marriage and the home. The situation couldn’t be more delicate than it is in this film. You never see Mrs. Matuchek; she is just mentioned. When her sins are mentioned, it is just said that she has been seeing the man in question. Thus, it is left entirely to the imagination of the audience to determine what has been happening. One cannot help but feel sympathy for Mr. Matuschek.
For the Blogathon
This movie is set in winter. It is in the months leading up to Christmas. The climax of the film occurs on Christmas eve. On that evening, there is an outdoor scene in front of the store. It is snowing, and it looks so beautifully cold and wintery. MGM had exquisite snow. I am always so impressed by the snow which is used in MGM films. It is delicate, graceful, and very deep. Don’t miss this perfect Code film when you want to cool down during the hot days of July!
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