Movies, Documentary

The Shop around the Corner

No Comments 31 May 2018

The Shop around the Corner

Today successful Hollywood actors are widely admired. This was not always the case. Some years ago, I visited LA and learned about the surprising history of Hollywood. The good society of LA looked down on actors. They were only seen as slightly better than prostitutes and so they were not allowed to live in town. The actors needed to move outside the city in a new area called Hollywood. I was reminded of this history in the opening minutes of The Shop around the Corner, which was produced in 1940.

Movie sets have become so sophisticated that when we we see a set from the 1930s, we know we are in Hollywood studio and not in a real town, in this case Budapest. The Shop around the Corner is based on a play and the action takes place largely in a single shop. It uses the old trick of mistaken identities to propel the story forward. Yet the way this trick is implemented here I had never seen before. The lead actor is the young James Steward, whose talent is on full display. In the female star role is Margaret Sullivan, who helped Steward’s career quite a bit. The dialogue is superb and for those of you who have a romantic heart, this movie will make your day. 91% of all people who have seen this film, say it is great. I am one of them and you will too.

Some interesting factoids from Steward’s Career courtesy of Wikipedia Upon Stewart's arrival by train in Los Angeles, Fonda greeted him at the station and took him to Fonda's studio-supplied lodging, next door to Greta Garbo. Stewart's first job at the studio was as a participant in screen tests with newly arrived starlets. At first, he had trouble being cast in Hollywood films owing to his gangling looks and shy, humble screen presence. Aside from an unbilled appearance in a Shemp Howard comedy short called Art Trouble in 1934, his first film was the poorly received Spencer Tracy vehicle The Murder Man (1935). Rose Marie (1936), an adaptation of a popular operetta, was more successful. After having mixed success in films, he received his first intensely dramatic role in 1936's After the Thin Man, and played Jean Harlow's character's frustrated boyfriend in the Clark Gable vehicle Wife vs. Secretary earlier that same year. On the romantic front, he dated newly divorced Ginger Rogers. The romance soon cooled, however, and by chance Stewart encountered Margaret Sullavan again. Stewart found his footing in Hollywood thanks largely to Sullavan, who campaigned for Stewart to be her leading man in the 1936 romantic comedy Next Time We Love. She rehearsed extensively with him, having a noticeable effect on his confidence. She encouraged Stewart to feel comfortable with his unique mannerisms and boyish charm and use them naturally as his own style. Stewart was enjoying Hollywood life and had no regrets about giving up the stage, as he worked six days a week in the MGM factory. In 1936, he acquired big-time agent Leland Hayward, who would eventually marry Sullavan. Hayward started to chart Stewart's career, deciding that the best path for him was through loan-outs to other studios. Frank Capra's comedy You Can't Take It With You (1938) was one of the films that brought Stewart widespread attention In 1938 Stewart had a brief, tumultuous romance with Hollywood queen Norma Shearer, whose husband, Irving Thalberg, head of production at MGM, had died two years earlier. Stewart began a successful partnership with director Frank Capra in 1938, when he was loaned out to Columbia Pictures to star in You Can't Take It With You. Capra had been impressed by Stewart's minor role in Navy Blue and Gold (1937). The director had recently completed several well received films, including It Happened One Night (1934), and was looking for the right actor to suit his needs—other recent actors in Capra's films such as Clark Gable, Ronald Colman, and Gary Cooper did not quite fit. Not only was Stewart just what he was looking for, but Capra also found Stewart understood that archetype intuitively and required very little directing. Later Capra commented, "I think he's probably the best actor who's ever hit the screen." You Can't Take It With You, starring Capra's "favorite actress", comedian Jean Arthur, won the 1938 Best Picture Academy Award. The following year saw Stewart work with Capra and Arthur again in the political comedy-drama Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Stewart replaced intended star Gary Cooper in the film, playing an idealist thrown into the political arena. Upon its October 1939 release, the film garnered critical praise and became a box-office success. Stewart received the first of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actor. *Stewart's father was still trying to talk him into leaving Hollywood and its sinful ways and to return to his home town to lead a decent life.*



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