A classic 1940 Romantic Comedy
from legendary director Ernst Lubitsch
, starring James Stewart
and Margaret Sullivan as bickering department store co-workers who are also (unbeknownst to them
) pen pals in love. Set in Budapest, Hungary, since it was based on the play Parfumerie
by Hungarian author Miklós László.
Remade in 1949 as In The Good Old Summertime
, a Musical
version starring Judy Garland
and set in Chicago in The Gay Nineties
. Adapted as The Musical She Loves Me
on Broadway in 1963. Remade again in 1998 as You've Got Mail
with Tom Hanks
and Meg Ryan
, with that newfangled technology like email
and instant messaging
This film features examples of:
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between the two leads.
- Billing Displacement: Margaret Sullavan actually gets top billing over Jimmy Stewart.
- At the time of this film's release, Sullavan was seen as an older established star and Stewart (despite having appeared in some hit films such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) was still the up-and-coming actor rather than the icon he would be in the postwar era.
- Brutal Honesty:
Klara: Mr. Kralik, I don't like you.
- But He Sounds Handsome:
- Subverted. Kralik pretends that he met Miss Novak's "Dear Friend," and insults him. before The Reveal. She admits then she'd long hoped it would be him.
- Played straight earlier in the film, when Miss Novak receives a letter from the "Dear Friend", who says he saw her with Mr. Kralik at the restaurant. "Who is this very attractive young man? He's just the type women fall for."
- Contrived Coincidence: Where does Klara find a job in Budapest? The store where her anonymous pen pal works.
- Dating Service Disaster: Two anonymous pen pals fall in love with each other without realizing that they hate each other in real life.
- Dramatic Irony: From the point Kralik knows who his "Dear Friend" is, and Miss Novak doesn't.
- Fainting: Klara collpases when she learns that Mr. Kralic is now managing the store.
- Food Porn: When Mr, Matuschek invites errand boy Rudy to share Christmas dinner with him:
Matuschek: Rudy, do you like chicken noodle soup?
Rudy: I certainly do, Mr. Matuschek.
Matuschek: And what would you think of roast goose stuffed with baked apples, and fresh boiled potatoes in butter, and some red cabbage on the side, huh?
Rudy: I'd love it!
Matuschek: And then some cucumber salad with sour cream...
Rudy: Oh, Mr. Matuschek!
- Fourth Date Marriage: Back then it didn't seem hard to imagine becoming engaged over the weekend to a man you have never even met face-to-face.
- Gold Digger: Mr. Vadas, who seems to be bleeding Mrs. Matuschek (and thus her husband) for money and favors.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Mrs. Matuschek.
- Hidden Depths: Alfred is brusque and businesslike, and Klara is kind of bitchy, but they're both deeply sensitive people underneath their exteriors.
- Hot And Cold: Klara to Alfred. One of the most well known early examples in fiction (Type 2 to be exact), Lampshaded when she said she read a book that tells her that if you treat a man like a dog he'll be eating out of your hand but all he did was return the favor.
- Insistent Terminology: Lampshaded:
Pepi: I'm a contact man. I keep contact between Matuschek & Co and the customers - on a bicycle.
Doctor: You mean an errand boy.
Pepi: Doctor - did I call you a pill-peddler?
- Internal Reveal: When Klara finally finds out who her Dear Friend is.
- Interrupted Suicide: Mr. Matuschek with a gun (interrupted by Pepi) when he finds out his wife has been cheating on him with Mr. Vadas instead of Mr. Kralik (as he originally suspected); his attempt is, arguably, out of guilt of false accusation and firing of his best employee more than the infidelity itself.
- Last Name Basis: The shop workers all address each other as "Mr. _____" or "Miss _____". Kralik does start privately calling Miss Novak "Klara" once he begins to care for her, though.
- Living with the Villain
- Love Before First Sight: The two leads fall in love through written letters.
- Married to the Job: Mr. Matuschek.
- Mean Boss: Mr. Matuschek crosses into this a little bit through the early part of the movie, although he undergoes something of a Heel-Face Turn after surviving his suicide attempt.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Inverted; Mr. Matuschek knows that his wife is cheating with one of his employees and comes to the conclusion that it is Mr. Kralik. It's really Mr. Vadas.
- Jerk Ass: Vadas, and to a lesser extent Pepi.
- Say My Name: How many times was the name Matuschek uttered in the film?
- Smug Snake: Vadas.
- Stood Up: Alfred didn't intend to stand Klara up—but he loses his job. And then she's particularly cruel to him at the restaurant after he comes in and sits at her table. So he goes home without revealing himself. Klara takes being Stood Up very badly.
- Techno Babble:
Doctor: It appears to be an acute epileptoid manifestation and a pan phobic melancholiac with indication of a neurasthenia cords.
Pepi: Is that more expensive than a nervous breakdown?
- The Thirties: Technically from 1940, but the feeling is much more Depression-era '30s than WWII-era '40s.
- Translation Convention: They are Hungarian, after all.
- True Companions: Mr. Matuschek says that Kralik is like a son to him. Also, he takes the new delivery boy home for Christmas Eve dinner after discovering that both of them are spending the holiday alone.