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Filmotomy Christmas Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 4

A Christmas Romance

The holidays can be the time to share it with someone special. If only we could all be so lucky. There have been many holiday romances throughout the years, but the gold standard for me must come from the most charming of charming romances The Shop Around the Corner. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan as two pen pals who fall in love while writing letters to each other, not knowing they’re actually co-workers at the same store who can’t stand each other.

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But as with any Lubitsch film, there is a balance of sophistication, and subtley. We know these two must end up together, it’s only a question of how. It comes to a boil in the film’s final scene. The shop has closed for Christmas, Stewart, who by this time is aware of who Sullivan really is, is alone with her. He plays with her a bit by telling her he has met her secret pen pal, and he conjurs up a very unsavory picture of him.

But why does he do this? Is it to torture her? Is it to see if she might be superficial, after all Stewart’s a bit awkward himself. Or maybe he’s just not sure how she might react to the knowledge that he is the one who has fallen in love with her. But he soon tells her, and there’s a moment of utter shock in Sullivan’s face, followed by confusion and disbelief.

There is a slight tremor of uncertainty in the air, especially as Stewart timidly asks “are you disappointed?” These are two people who deserve to find love and we can’t help but wish that for them. But Lubitsch gives us that release in the most charming way. Sullivan asks Stewart to lift his trowsers to see if he’s not bow-legged (which was perhaps the one superficiality she only cared about). Once he does this, they kiss in a full embrace, and the two lonelyhearts don’t have to worry about being lonely anymore. Anyone who has wished to find love, but who may be a little timid or shy, and who might worry about expectations, can find real truth in this scene. But it’s about finding truth in the person and falling in love with who they are.

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