A truly underrated Christmas film classic

In The Shop Around the Corner, the store’s owner Hugo Matuschek (Frank Morgan) hires a private detective because he’s certain that one of his employees is having an affair with his unseen wife. Matuschek takes out his frustrations on all of his employees, without ever revealing the real reason why. In the film’s most dramatic scene, Matuschek even tries to shoot himself.

At the same time, Klara and Alfred’s attacks on each other get increasingly pointed, too. She calls him “a little insignificant clerk”, while at one point she retorts: “I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr Kralik, because I know exactly what I’d find. Instead of a heart, a handbag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter… which doesn’t work.”

A darker side to the holidays

The Shop Around the Corner’s mixing of comedy, romance, tragedy, and the macabre is particularly heightened because of the film’s proximity to Christmas. Each of the characters’ vulnerabilities, insecurities and hopes are exposed against the festive fun they’re supposed to be experiencing.

“This is one of my favourite subjects at Christmas time,” says Arnold. “No matter what our attitude is to Christmas, we all have a love-hate relationship with it. It can inspire great highs, joy, love, togetherness. It can heighten feelings of loneliness, emptiness, wistfulness, alienation, cynicism. Sometimes, we can go through variations of these emotions on a daily basis when it gets closer to Christmas.”

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