Kathleen Shops Around the Corner

Please welcome Kathleen Peacock, author of the upcoming young adult novel Hemlock (HarperCollins, 2011).

The Shop Around the Corner

1940. The snow is falling and so are the profits at Matuschek and Company, a small department store in Budapest, Hungary. In the stockroom, long-time employee Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) and new salesgirl Klara Novak (Margaret Sullivan) can’t go two seconds without verbally sparring. She’s never met a more difficult man; he’s never met a more stubborn woman.

Obviously, they’re going to fall in love. This is, after all, the golden age of cinema. It’s only a matter of finding out “how.”

The “how” comes in the form of letters. Kralik answers a personal ad from a woman looking for a pen pal and, after corresponding on all manner of subjects, finds himself in love. When he discovers the object of his affection is the woman who’s fought with him every day for the past six months, things get…complicated.

If the plot of The Shop Around the Corner sounds familiar, it should. In 1998, the film was loosely remade as You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the Stewart and Sullivan roles.

Though I like both movies, there’s something extra special about The Shop Around the Corner. Not only does the movie feature Stewart at his most crush-worthy, the electricity between the two leads practically crackles. It’s also a smart film that respects its audience enough not to sugar-coat the fact that Christmas is a depressing time of year for a lot of people; there may be romance brewing at Matuschek and Company, but there’s also a fair bit of heartache and strife.

The film was chosen by the critics at Time as one of the top 100 movies of all time and it ranked twenty-eighth on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Passions” special. It’s perfect Christmas viewing—especially for anyone who loves great dialogue.

So curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate and watch Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan fall in love in Budapest. But be prepared, this movie will totally steal your heart.

– Kathleen, Hemlock