On "No Down Payment": Anne said...This is what makes me wonder if Jeffrey Hunter and Patricia Owens'scharacters had even consumated thier marriageThe kid's got a broken radio, Jeff pulls out a screw driver and sets to work.Tony Randall gets smarmy with Jeff's wife and he's a frozen bystander...if Tony was mashing a radio, I think Jeff's character would have sprun into action. March 9, 2013
On "Trooper Hook": Vienna said...Wonderful review ! I haven't seen TROOPER HOOK for a long time but hope it becomes available on DVD. You describe Joel and Barbara's characters so well. An unusual role for Barbara. I guess she chose to do it for that reason. March 11, 2013
Anne said...Thank you for writing about this little gemOne can see this film on the encore west channel now and then and it's astonishingly good. With a budget not enough for a modern office pastry cart, it shows what can be done with excellent writing and acting....and directing. I love how we see the tiny stage from afar, then we see it though Nanches legs, we are right behind him, and we now know he's on their trail...it makes him almost a gonzilla of a threatChildren: let Mr. McCrea and Ms Stanwyck show you how it's done.They are hotter across a dusty feed store than many buck necked couples in love scenes today.March 7, 2013
On "Any Number Can Play": Vienna said...I love this film. Great cast, though I hate seeing Audrey Totter so totally wasted. All Audrey seemed to do was stand around with a glass in one hand and cigarette in the other.I thought Alexis Smith did well ,playing a woman whom I 'm sure was meant to be older than Alexis who was probably about 30 at the time.Great to see Mary Astor though,again, what a small role. And Marjorie Rambeau is always a joy.It could have been a play, with the only sets the gambling club and Gable's house.An unusual role for Gable and he was convincing.March 1, 2013
On Anita Sharp-Bolster: Vienna said...I've just see Anita in THE LONDON BLACKOUT MURDERS and she is so good as another battle-axe character , but with a touch of comedy . Nice tribute. Thanks.http//:dancing lady39.wordpress.com February 2, 2013
On Victor Jory - On Stage and Screen: Vienna said...Thanks for great tribute to Victor Jory whom I like, especially in a couple of films where he isn't the villain! In FIGHTING MAN OF THE PLAINS, Victor does his best to help Randolph Scott and becomes a good friend to Scott's character. Such a contrast to Victor's usual roles. I also liked him in a little B, THE UNKNOWN GUEST where he is the leading manI had no idea Victor and Alexis Smith did two plays together - thanks for the information. Oh to have seen them!January 24, 2013
On And Then There Were None: Ryan said...I bought this years ago on DVD, and it's still my favorite movie version of this story. The cast was perfect, and to tell you the truth, though I love the book, I almost prefer this ending. I think it's the hopeless romantic in me.February 19, 2013
“The Shop Around the Corner” (1940) nostalgically shows us the finely delineated everyday moments that are more trying, require more patience and courage, give more delight and a bigger emotional rush than even the most hectic modern countdown to Christmas. Reportedly director Ernst Lubitsch’s favorite film, it is no one wonder, for there is so much of his personally constructed Gemütlichkeit. It begins with the lilting, breezy dance orchestra music we hear at the opening and closing credits.
We’re going shopping this week with a look at the commercial aspect (though incidental) of Christmas as seen through this film, and on Thursday, with “Holiday Affair” (1949).
There are so many charming aspects to “The Shop Around the Corner”, most especially that the minor character actors play major roles, including many beautiful solo moments that compliment the major stars here: Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart.
You’ll remember Felix Bressart from a slew of films, even if you don’t know his name. Here he is the elder shop clerk who assiduously avoids the blustering boss with whom he knows he can’t win, and seems to bring the warmth of his simple home where he is “Papa” to his wife and children, into the gift shop where he and his fellow employees have a kind of second home. We last saw him in this post on “Portrait of Jennie” (1949) where he played the befuddled movie projector operator.
You’ll remember Sara Haden as Aunt Milly from a long parade of Andy Hardy movies. She is the old maid secretary here instead of the old maid aunt. Charles Halton is the detective, also seen in dozens of movies in minor roles, probably you’ll recall him as the bank examiner in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946).
William Tracy is a standout as the clownish, clever delivery boy, likable and conniving, who eventually gets a promotion and lords it over the new delivery boy.
The new boy is played by a young Charles Smith, who could tear our hearts out with his gentle innocence and hopefulness.
Josef Schildkraut, who won the Best Supporting Oscar for “The Life of Emile Zola” (1937), continues to prove his versatility as the two-faced sales clerk always trying to stab his fellow employees in the back (we’ve all known them).
There is Frank Morgan, just off “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), who skillfully trades his customary comic confusion for a more dramatic role as the fussy boss, Mr. Matuschek, whose personal anxieties and ultimate near-tragedy affect his entire staff.
All these players make the movie seem like an ensemble piece, where the last shall be first. Still, there is a major plot line for the two stars apart from the goings on in the store.
Especially good in his role is James Stewart, the head sales clerk, a man who must be a buffer between the mercurial whims of the boss, and the helpless junior staff. Mr. Stewart has the ability to play that kind of young man who, while being street-wise and knowing the odds of life are stacked against him, manages to balance his wry pragmatism with a brave idealism that buoys him. He walks a fine line in his relationship with his boss, and with his secret love, a woman he knows only by her letters. We saw recently with “Love Letters” how much can be won, and lost, in precious correspondence and the allure of a well-turned phrase.
Margaret Sullavan plays the newest member of the staff, who cleverly and with chutzpah manages to charm a disinterested lady customer into buying unmovable merchandise, thereby getting herself a job and starting her role as a thorn in the side to James Stewart. They are combative throughout the film, but each has a secret. Eventually, we come to understand that the anonymous pen pal letters they write to prospective sweethearts are actually written to each other.
The story has been remade in several incarnations, including the post here on “In the Good Old Summertime” (1944). But this version has a charm all its own, and I think a good part of it is Lubitsch’s setting the story in Budapest during the Depression. I love the signs all written in Magyar, including our many peeks at the currency tabs on the cash register.
Miss Sullavan, with her Dresden doll features and her precise stage speech with her throaty voice seems to carry the illusion of Europe, as does, ironically, James Stewart. We may see him usually as his “Mr. Smith” icon, the all-American idealist. But there was also something, as mentioned above, of a practical, doubting, soberness to James Stewart’s portrayals, as if he is someone who was fooled once and is determined not to be taken in again. His gentlemanly reserve fits well here in this middle European gift shop.
I love Felix Bressart’s low bows when shaking hands. The Americans and the Europeans in the cast seem to blend well together, without parody.
Made in 1940, while World War II stripped away the independence and the lives of many, many Europeans, we may well guess that this is Mr. Lubitsch’s tribute, and perhaps farewell, to a more peaceful era in Europe. Hitler may have been well forming his plans in the 1930s, but there is still in this movie something decidedly nostalgic, something Habsburgian about this setting. It might be the cigarette boxes that play “Ochi Tchornya” (Dark Eyes), or the courtly shrug of the shoulders attitude that one must make the best of things in this troubled world.
The commercial aspect of Christmas here is gently expressed. Certainly Frank Morgan exhorts, and bullies, his employees into gearing up for the hoped-for Christmas rush. Christmas Eve, a light snow without sleet or the slightest breeze falls on the shoulders of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in the street, teased by decorated window displays. Mr. Morgan’s gift shop does the best business since 1928, the last Christmas before the Wall Street crash.
I like James Stewart’s line to Felix Bressart when they discuss the excitement of getting a bonus, the anticipation of opening the pay envelope and wondering how much. “As long as the envelope’s closed, you’re a millionaire.”
We sense the boss is made the happiest when, after inquiring after the Christmas Eve plans of his employees, who all have somewhere to go, his newest staff member, young Rudy, is all alone this night. Boss, alone himself, joyfully invites delivery boy to a first rate restaurant feast as Mr. Morgan learns the true spirit of Christmas, not from ghosts, but by his own errors, his near-tragedy, and his gratitude that life does go on in spite of how much of a mess we make of it sometimes.
If you’ve not seen “The Shop Around the Corner”, TCM is showing it tonight.
Come back Thursday for Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh in a much larger department store setting in “Holiday Affair”.
Meet Me in Nuthatch - A publicity stunt to attract tourists to a small dying town results in the entire community turning the clock back to 1904. It is local Christmas tree farmer Everett Campbell’s idea, after watching the film “Meet Me in St. Louis,” his young daughter’s new favorite movie. What begins as half practical joke and half desperate ploy initiates the rebirth of Nuthatch, Massachusetts. Tourists do come, along with the media. To Everett’s dismay, his campaign to save their community results in also attracting representatives of a chain of theme parks who want to buy Nuthatch 1904. Everett now stands to lose his town in a way he never imagined, and the community is divided on which alternate future to choose. A local drug dealer, the longtime enemy of Everett, may hold their future in his hands unless Everett can pull off his most spectacular, and dangerous, practical joke.
“…a comforting, pleasant read that stays with you even after the last page is turned. After finishing the book, I found myself still musing about the relationships and how they'd changed and progressed. This book was a nice, hot chocolate sort of read.” Grace Krispy, "MotherLode" blog book review.
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