Friday, February 10, 2012
Great On Screen Couples: Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart
One of Hollywood's most beloved on screen couples has to be Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart. The pair made four films together: Next Time We Love (1936); The Shopworn Angel (1938); The Shop Around The Corner (1940); and The Mortal Storm (1940). I have seen the last two films and like them very much. Now just need to see their first two films.
The pair met in 1931 when Stewart stage-managed a touring play starring Sullavan. They even dated briefly during this time period. They did not act together until landing in Hollywood. Sullavan had already scored some hit films including Next Time We Love (1933). She requesting Stewart for their first film together, Next Time We Love. History says that Stewart was so inexperienced that he was about to be fired until Sullavan took it upon herself to rehearse each night with him, refining his acting skills. And it worked.
Their next film, The Shopworn Angel (1938), was intended for Jean Harlow. But Jean's untimely death opened the door for Sullavan, who once again requested Stewart as her leading man. This film showed that Stewart could be a true romantic star.
After the success of Angel, Universal got the pair together again for probably their most known and beloved film, The Shop Around The Corner. It is considered one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time. Certainly having Ernst Lubitsch as director did not hurt.
For their final film together, a somber and dramatic piece called The Mortal Storm. Audiences did not like this pairing as much as their previous films and would end their pairings. Stewart would enlist in the army while Sullavan would return to Broadway. But their place in history of greatest film couples is firmly entrenched.
The Shop Around The Corner was remade twice. In 1949 with Judy Garland and Van Johnson called In The Good Old Summertime. And in 1998 with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan called You've Got Mail. For my money, the original is by far the best.
Norma Shearer was so impressed by Stewart's performance in The Shopworn Angel that she set her sights on him. They dated for six weeks.
While at Princeton, Stewart asked Sullavan to attend a school reception with him. Sullavan would later say that it was the longest, slowest, shyest but most sincere invitation she had ever received.
Notes provided by TCM's Leading Couples.