I just love Erik Rhodes as the outrageously accented professional co-respondent Rufolfo Tonetti. He originated the role on Broadway and came to Hollywood to reprise it, and that over-the-top, play-to-the-balcony energy is just perfect.
So many comedies of the 1930s and early 40s were set in glamorous worlds filled with madcap heiresses, glittering cocktail parties, men in white tie and tails, butlers and maids. But in The Shop Around the Corner, Lubitsch invites us into a Budapest luggage shop with a middle-class clientele, and the story focuses on the clerks, shop girls and errand boys who populate it. No fabulous costume changes, no nightclub scenes.
The only things that sparkle in this film are the dialog and the performances, and the carefully crafted direction that makes the whole thing seem natural and effortless.
I’ve been mad at this movie over the years for casting dull John Lund as the object of desire for strait-laced Iowa congresswoman Jean Arthur and ex-Nazi sequined nightclub singer Marlene Dietrich. But on this watch I changed my mind. He’s so uninteresting we can really concentrate on the women, it becomes their story. And they are both terrific.