|Balta St., Budapest|
|Matuschek's gift shop|
The ensemble cast includes several of MGM’s top supporting players. Among them is Frank Morgan in one of his most interesting roles as Mr. Matuschek, the colorful charmer who owns the gift shop. A dark turn in the subplot concerning Matuschek gives Morgan an opportunity to portray affecting pathos.
Venerable Felix Bressart plays the meek/endearing clerk, Pirovich (shown in the scene below). Versatile Joseph Schildkraut defines ‘loathsome’ as Vadas. Also in the featured cast are Sara Haden, William Tracy and Inez Courtney.
The stars, James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, shared a legendary chemistry on film and it is never more apparent than in The Shop Around the Corner. Stewart is at his most appealing as Mr. Kralik, head clerk and right hand man to Mr. Matuschek. In this role, Stewart's broad signature mannerisms are tempered by the sensitivity with which he plays Kralik's romantic yearnings. But it is Sullavan's performance that astonishes. Her Klara Novak, an idealistic but difficult shop girl blinded by lofty dreams, exudes breathless eagerness, brittle fragility, willfulness and so much more. Sullavan’s amazing voice, her eyes, her facial expressions and physical movements - all are musical.
With the closing sequences of The Shop Around the Corner, Lubitsch demonstrates his consummate finesse…
|Frank Morgan and Charles Smith|
When new young employee Rudy (Charles Smith) emerges, Matuschek takes him under his wing and out to a glorious Christmas dinner of roast goose, potatoes in butter…and “a double order of apple strudel in vanilla sauce.” The two, no longer alone on Christmas Eve, strike up a joyful camaraderie.
Inside the darkened shop, Stewart and Sullavan move in perfect harmony as Kralik and Klara finally connect with each other. This last scene, one of the most deeply romantic and witty ever confected, contains the distilled essence of Lubitsch’s “touch.”