Friday, January 15, 2021

Tonight's Movie: The Shop Around the Corner (1940) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) is the third and greatest of a trio of Christmas movies released on Blu-ray last month by the Warner Archive.

I previously reviewed the Warner Archive's December releases of IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE (1947) and HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949).

I love THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, which I wrote about for the ClassicFlix site in 2015; an updated version of that review was published here in 2017.

Since I discussed my feelings about the movie so extensively in that review, rather than "reinvent the wheel" I'd like to suggest readers click over to it for more detailed thoughts on the film itself, as well as a bit of the history of this oft-filmed property, before returning here to continue with the Blu-ray review.

Suffice it to say that this story of two bickering shop workers (James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan) unknowingly falling in love by mail is a superb film, with outstanding performances and the typically lighter-than-air touch by director Ernst Lubitsch. It's a true gem of Golden Era filmmaking.

The excellent acting includes not just the two leads, but Frank Morgan as the store owner and Felix Bressart, Sara Haden, Inez Courtney, Joseph Schildkraut, and William Tracy as his other employees. (Incidentally, last year I got to know Tracy's work better thanks to the ClassicFlix Streamliners releases TANKS A MILLION and HAY FOOT.)  For me every return to this film is 99 minutes of pure movie joy, welcome at Christmastime or any time.

Prior to the Blu-ray release I was fortunate to have last seen the film in 35mm as part of a 2018 Lubitsch tribute at UCLA. That glorious print had such richness and depth that I wrote at the time that if I didn't know better, I'd have guessed it was a nitrate print.

The new Warner Archive Blu-ray beautifully shows off the black and white cinematography of William Daniels and calls to mind how wonderful the film looked at that special screening.  While the print struck me as slightly soft in the earliest scenes, the second half of the film in particular looks outstanding; the scenes with Morgan in the snow are probably as close as one can get to the 35mm screening.  In fact, I enjoyed noting that reviewer Glenn Erickson mentioned this new Blu-ray "is so rich, it almost feels like 3-D," which is quite similar to how I described my 35mm experience.  It was a joy to watch the film once more via this print.

Like the Warner Archive releases of IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE and HOLIDAY AFFAIR, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER comes with an "old time radio" extra -- in this case, there are actually two separate productions, a short 30-minute 1940 Screen Guild Theater performance with original cast members Stewart, Sullavan, and Morgan, and an hour-long 1941 Lux Radio Theater production with Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, and Felix Bressart.  I find it a real treat to hear both original and "alternate" casts on radio productions of classic films.  I feel these radio recordings add a great deal of value to the Blu-rays, and I hope the Warner Archive will include more on future releases.

The disc also includes the trailer and the "New Romance of Celluloid" short THE MIRACLE OF SOUND (1940).

THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER film and Blu-ray release are both highly recommended.

The Warner Archive has a number of additional great Blu-ray releases scheduled for early 2021, and I'm delighted to say I'll be reviewing several of them here, including some wonderful musicals, AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936), SAN FRANCISCO (1936), and Cary Grant in ROOM FOR ONE MORE (1952).  Stay tuned!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold. 


Blogger Vienna said...

Coincidentally my blu Ray arrived yesterday. Wonderful film.Wonderful cast. I do so envy you seeing it on the big screen.

1:14 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Regarding Stewart's Academy Award; between Shop Around the Corner and Mr. Smith the Academy , without collusion, just a collective feeling, felt they owed him something, and gave him the Award for The Philadelphia Story, which was ridiculous. The go to guy in that film was Grant, with supporting actors honors going to Roland Young. Just an illustration of timing and what some elections come down to.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Enjoy, Vienna!! It's a film which grows more special with each passing year, doesn't it?

I agree, Barrylane, Stewart's performance in PHILADELPHIA STORY was the least of the three you mention. As I wrote in my 2017 review, of Stewart's two 1940 films I think he should have received the award for THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER. It seems instead to have been more of a "collective" honor, with just PHILADELPHIA STORY named.

Best wishes,

9:10 AM  

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