Recently, Youthlarge has been on a Jimmy Stewart kick. I had recorded The Shop Around the Corner because I thought she'd like it. She must have said, "I didn't realize Jimmy Stewart was so handsome" at least twenty times during the movie. She then recorded Winchester '73 which she would have shown absolutely no interest in seeing when I saw it at the Film Forum last year. And she recorded this little gem.
This movie is notable for a few reasons. It was Stewart's last movie before joining the service. It also served as the screen debut of Adeline de Walt Reynolds who played Stewart's grandmother. She was already eighty-years-old but this film was the springboard to a twenty year film career!
The film is about an illegal Austrian immigrant (played by the foxy Hedy Lamar) who is dating a married publisher. She has to marry someone to stay in the country but obviously can't marry her married beau. One thing leads to another, of course, and somehow she ends up married to Stewart, a starving writer, after a chance meeting on the street.
She bankrolls him while she continues to commit adultery. Of course, he falls in love with her. He begins to write a "fictionalized" account about his experiences and who would have believed that he would end up having a real gem on his hands? Meanwhile, the publisher's wife and talent scout passes along the unfinished manuscipt to her husband and all hell breaks loose.
It is movies like this that make me sad about today's climate for romantic comedy. Of course, the viewer wants to be manipulated but in an intelligent, charming way. Today's romantic comedies are usually so cringe inducing. This film is not perfect though. As Youthlarge pointed out, we never really see Stewart falling in love with Lamar, it just sort of happened because he told us it did. The movie is only 85 minutes so it could have stood a little more fleshing out.
But all of the performances are wonderful. There are some surreal moments that break the cuteness - usually revolving around Stewart talking to his reflection in a mirror. As a historical document, it is fascinating as well. The whole adultery thing comes with no real consequences and is not frowned upon at all. In fact, the publisher's wife is a jolly good sport about the whole thing and states that she merely wants her husband to be happy. Then again, she is the one who orchestrates the whole Stewart/Lamar hookup at the end.
This is a very fun movie but if you are looking for the perfect Jimmy Stewart romantic comedy from this era, look no further than The Shop Around the Corner.
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