Making the Grades
Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) works at The Shop Around the Corner from one of Budapest's busiest streets. And just like the city's hustle and bustle, the gift store clerk fears the mainstream of life is passing him by. Although he has been content to work at Matuschek and Company for nine years, the quiet-living employee is looking for something more -- something he hopes he will find by answering a personal ad he stumbles upon in a newspaper.
Over the next six months, correspondence with his "Dear Friend" lends solace to his increasing disenchantment with his profession. Ever since Miss Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) was hired, Kralik has experienced some serious personality clashes. Even though he is her supervisor, the sharp-tongued sales woman is constantly cutting him down. He also senses his usually warm-hearted boss Mr. Matuschek (Frank Morgan), is giving him the cold shoulder.
But the encouraging words of the mysterious letter lady help the bashful bachelor's self-confidence to blossom despite this adversity. Plucking up his courage, he sets a date to introduce himself. However, an unexpected request to work overtime on that very evening threatens to squash the budding relationship.
The extra hours assignment is a disappointment to the rest of the staff as well. Behind the storeowner's back, Miss Novak confides to a female co-worker her previously scheduled appointment to finally meet an unidentified man she has been writing to for half a year...
Obviously, there are a few things Mr. Kralik and Miss Novak still don't know about each other--and when they find out, it's bound to hurt.
Discovering your sworn enemy and soul mate are the same person isn't the only way this script playfully exposes human nature's tendency to take others at face value. As the story unfolds, additional characters are unmasked. For instance, beneath the fa0xE7ade of the successful merchant lie some fears of failure, and within the humble little delivery boy lurks an enormous ambition.
Besides poking fun at peoples' habit of changing their persona to suit various situations, the black and white film also contains some more serious elements, such as a suicide attempt (not shown on screen) and illusions to infidelity. Typical for it's vintage, portrayals of smoking and physical violence (adding a punch to an employee's pink slip) are included. Yet, the movie begs us to do more than just scratch the surface of those around us. If you are used to judging a book by it's cover, you may be surprised by what you find in The Shop Around the Corner.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Shop Around The Corner.
Have you ever had the experience of discovering you had misjudged someone? How did you find out? Why is it dangerous to rely on first impressions? Is it always possible to correct someone else’s misconceptions?