You are most likely familiar with the 1998 hit You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. What you probably never realized, however, is that this film is actually the last in a legacy of three movies.
Beginning in 1940, this trio starts with a black and white film starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. It is titled Shop Around the Corner and takes place in Budapest, Hungary. Alfred Kralick and Klara Novak are both employed at a gift shop, and their dislike of each other is kept no secret. They may be more alike than they realize, however. Their feelings of unfulfilment lead them both to individualy seek an ally to converse with. An advertisement for a correspondant catches Miss Novak’s eye.
Released in 1949, In the Good Old Summertime features Judy Garland and Van Johnson. This film is actually a musical, and the music numbers performed by Ms. Garland and Mr. Johnson are nothing short of delightful. They portray Veronica Fisher and Andrew Perkins, who are both associates at a music store. They hold an intense disdain for one another during store hours, forever trying to out-do one another. If only they could find a thoughtful, intellectual friend they could confide in.
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in You’ve Got Mail, released in 1998. They portray Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly, owners of rival book stores who are both determined to close the other down. At night they vent their frustrations to their online correspondents.
The story line, though set in various times and locations, remains true throughout all three films, and even many of the same lines and scenes have endured through each version.
For example, in all three movies she carries a book and a flower with her to finally meet her anonymous friend in person. While waiting for him to arrive, her arch enemy arrives, and the following dialogue takes place:
Shop Around the Corner
Alfred Kralick: In fact, there may be a great many things we don’t know about each other. You know people seldom go through the trouble of scratching the surface of things to find the inner truth.
Klara Novak: Well, I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralick, because of I did 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 wouldn’t work.
Alfred Kralick: Well, that’s very nicely put. Comparing my intellect with a cigarette lighter that doesn’t work. That’s a very interesting mixture of poetry, and meanness.”
In the Good Old Summertime
Andrew Perkins: And there are a great many things you don’t know about me, Miss Fisher. It’s a shame people seldom do more than start to scratch the surface.
Victoria Fisher: Well Mr. Larkin I know I don’t care to scratch your surface! Because I know if I did instead of a heart I’d find a piccollo! And instead of a soul I’d find a flute. And instead of an intellect and I’d find a metronome – that doesn’t work very well.
Andrew Perkins: Oh, well, that’s such an interesting mixture of poetry and meanness. Very well put.
You’ve Got Mail
Joe Fox: I think you’d discover a lot of things if you really knew me.
Kathleen Kelly: If I really knew you, I know exactly what I’d find: instead of a brain a cash register, instead of a heart a bottom line. [gasps]
Joe Fox: What?
Kathleen Kelly: I just had a breakthrough.
Joe Fox : What is it?
Kathleen Kelly : I have you to thank for it. For the first time in my life, when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and I said it.
J oe Fox: I think you have the gift for it. It was a perfect blend of poetry and meanness.
Fans of You’ve Got Mail will recognize the same ironic humor and lovable characters, and enjoy the unique plots, personal struggles and joys that are featured in the older versions. I encourage all movie lovers to check out these three wonderful classic films.