Before the days of e-Harmony and match.com, couples near and far interacted with love letters and personal ads in the newspaper. Try to imagine waiting days, weeks, and even months before finding out something as simple as their favourite colour! There were no notifications to let them know who read their advertisement and when it was read. Harsh times filled with first world problems. Several films follow this type of interaction via mail, in fact there is an updated version with e-mail interface starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, You’ve Got Mail (1998). The film is a remake of another Christmastime classic The Shop Around the Corner (1940), which is referenced in the 1998 film as Ryan owns a bookstore titled “The Shop Around the Corner.” Much of The Shop Around the Corner occurs during winter months and around Christmastime, which is why the film is often aired this time of year.
There is something about Christmastime and its direct link to falling in love. My Facebook feed fills with newfound relationships, “I said yes!” posts, wedding photos, and love galore — I think it’s worse than Valentine’s day, in some respects. But hey, I’ll go for a good ol’ classic film with the love-at-Christmastime principle. The Shop Around the Corner follows a young couple working at the same gift shop and they happen to be writing letters to one another without knowing. The catch? They hate each other outside the letters Alfred Kralik (Jimmy Stewart) and Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) find one another to be “intelligent” and “cultured” within them. I guess something about Jimmy Stewart’s stutter makes him the perfect fit for this type of role, but Alfred Kralik is no George Bailey.
This film could be classified as the 1940s equivalent of the “rom-com,” which explains why the film translates so well to the late 1990s in You’ve Got Mail. However, I think the Christmas atmosphere of the film and in the presence of yuletide emotions in the film’s conclusion contributes heavily to its success rather than the humour of the situation. My own desire for Kralik and Novak to overcome the hatred is driven by their love for the letter writer, the person’s intellect, and not based on appearance, class, or the front people tend to put on for the world to see in a workplace setting. The Christmas holidays tend to bring out the best in people and it serves as a reminder of the need for family and friends at our side.
The next blog will focus on a lesser-known (and perhaps superior in my Judy Garland lovin’ heart) remake of The Shop Around the Corner titled In the Good Old Summertime. Although it is inappropriately titled, most of the film is featured at Christmastime and there is a musical flair added by Garland. How does music spice up this Christmas classic? You’ll find out!