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« Remembering Judy Resnik | Main | Family Non Sequiturs »

February 02, 2007


Oh Danny HOW COULD YOU? How could you have given away the ending in "The Mortal Storm"? You should have at least posted a spoiler alert at the beginning of the blog. Bad bad Danny. I bet Kendall will agree with me!

Oh damn, Wendy, you're right! It never occurred to me to post a Spoiler warning about a 67-year-old film but I should have.

Just kidding, folks, Margaret doesn't die at all, and the Nazis decide to leave the Jews alone. They make Frank Morgan the Wizard of Deutschland.

Darling, sometimes I hate you for being such a better writer than me! Can I please steal the title of this post for my chapter? But just to clarify my own position on dear Margaret Sullavan's end --since obviously you don't really listen to anything I say -- all I said was there is doubt about her death. Suicide or possible accident, no one can be sure. And whatever she wanted to do is ok by me. I'm all for choice at both ends of life. Darling, I love being in our own crazy demographic together. Margaret Sullavan and the Nazis pretty much describes it!

Having read and loved "Haywire" many years ago, it for some reason didn't occur to me that I'd never seen Margaret Sullavan in a film. I recently discovered her through a Netflix rental of "The Good Fairy", an absolutely charming film that caused me to fall in love with her AS WELL as with Herbert Marshall, whom I'd never seen before either. That led to "The Shop Around the Corner", and I'm now a huge fan of this wonderful actress.

Your post also reminds me that I MUST get to Cinematheque more often, not just for the Noir festival once a year...

I had heard of her before, but I've never actually seen her in a film. Thanks for such a great post. I will definitely have to rent some of her movies.

I loved Margaret Sullivan, and still do! And I LOVED these two films....It is interesting what you said about "THE MORTAL STORM" never referring to the Jews by name, but only as Non-Aryans...but I must tell you Danny, as a young person watching this film back 'in the day', there was never any doubt in my mind who they were talking about. You must remember 'jews' were rarely mentioned by name in films until way after the War ended...the late 40's and early 50's and even then, the mentions were few and far between...Still, I remember feeling the threat very clearly in "The Mortal Storm"...."Three Comrades" was a favorite of mine, too...those three beautiful leading men---ALL gorgeous and good, too....I guess if one grew up during the time these were made, one accepted the conventions---no accents, etc. especially if one, (me) was young, which I was.
"THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER"....A sublime film if ever there was one. And the beautiful sweet dear musical of this fabulous film was a perfect perfect musical in every way, with the young Barbara Cook in the Margaret Sullivan part....Joyce V. P. and I saw this about three times, first seeing it when we arrived in New York for reheardsals of "Spoon River"..."SHE LOVES ME" was such a faithful rendering of this very special film....And ALL the cast of the movie, including Frank Morgan, once again...(What a fantastic group of character actors there were back then---) and Anne Franks know who I mean, and that other fabulous actor who was in "TO BE OR NOT TO GE"--the "original" who then played the other man who worked in Matacheks....Ahhhhhh, what a film...and Jimmy & Margaret...the perfect couple....I could watch that movie over and over and over and have. Did you ever see "SHE LOVES ME"?)
Dear Margaret Sullivan had such demons, they say....but she had something quite special on the screen and on the stage too! You are so right, Danny....Who under 60 knows or remembers and reveres her besides you and Kendall? A Shanda, really!

Joseph Shildkraut and Felix Bresser....!
OY! The synapses are s-l-o-w....Those are the two actors I was trying to think of....
Felix Bressart was the one in "TO BE OR NOT TO BE"--(Jack Benny-Carole Lombard) that had the spech from MERCHANT OF VENICE....."....If you prcck us do we not bleed?"...Now there was a movie movie, too!
"So they call me Concentration Camp Erhardt?" Another Fabulous actor....Oh Shot! I cannot think of his name either...and I know it like I know yours, Danny!

SIG RUMAN!!!! (Spelling?)
I'll stop! LOL!

Okay...Both these films...SHOP and TO BE OR....
Directed by Lubitsch...(Now that spelling looks wierd...) Great Director!

NOW, I'm done....LOL!

Thanks for taking along me on your trip down Memory Lane, Danny.

Sullavan was the stuff of my adolescent dreams. She was wholesome beauty personified -- and, oh, that voice!

Watching The Little Shop Around the Corner on Turner Classic Movies is a highpoint of my annual Yuletide celebration.

I never saw Three Comrades -- from the Remarque novel of the same name. However, I did see and enjoy The Mortal Storm made from a popular novel by now forgotten Phyllis Bottome.

In the movie, the book was bowdlerized more than a bit to meet the requirements of the Breen Office.

The heroine didn't die in the novel. There, the "good German" played by Jimmy Stewart had impregnated his girl before attempting to escape over the border. Alas, he didn't succeed. He was shot by border guards. And his girl goes to live with his peasant mother (Ouspenskaya in the movie) and bear his child.

Also, in the book, the hero is identified as a member of the Communist resistance. I doubt that Stewart, a solid Republican, would have wanted any part of that even if it had been allowed.

We have to remember though that in those innocent times, many viewed Communists not only as anti-Nazis but as good democrats at heart.

Bob C.

I, too, love Sullavan, although I've only seen her in 'The Shop Around the Corner.' She seems so vulnerable and principled. And she was beautiful. They say that she was difficult to work with, moody. (I've wondered if she didn't suffer from bipolar disorder.) But it's also said that James Stewart could work with her and that he seemed to have a particular sensitivity that allowed him to absorb her moodiness and make her feel accepted. My guess is that, at some level, he loved her.

In some respects, Meg Ryan was the perfect choice to play the Sullavan character in 'You've Got Mail,' the Nora Ephron reincarnation of 'The Shop Around the Corner.' Yet, Sullavan's cuteness seems more incidental than Ryan's, which appears to be more studied. (But I do love Ryan, I should add.)

One other thing, relating to accents. Only a few of the actors in 'Shop' bothered with them there either. In a way, there's a certain wisdom to that. Often, accents are so horribly rendered that you think more about them than about the story itself.

As usual, Danny, a wonderful post. I love reading your blog!

Mark Daniels


The truth is I am clueless about most of the films and actors you cover in your posts on old Hollywood, and yet I always read them for your insight and an "education" on all I've missed on film. Great writing.

Mark Daniel guesses that "at some level" Jimmy Stewart loved Margaret Sullavan.

That my well be true. Industry yentas of the period wrote that there was indeed a love affair between the two. Informed opinion held that Stwewart proposed to her but was rejected.

Bob Civin

"You’d think in the late 1930s MGM would go out of its way to avoid showing Germans in anything but a negative light "

Yet I've heard that those working on "Mrs. Miniver" had to fight to make the downed German flyer a villain, and that came out in 1942.

It's true. The Jewish studio heads were constantly worried about alienating their large German audiences even though American films obviously weren't being shown there during the war. Oy.

Just ordered The Shop Around The Corner.

Reading your blog has had a tremendous impact on my dvd collection! I also ordered The Ghost and Mrs. Muir with Gene Tierney, which has nothing to do with this blog other than I really like that old movie. Tee Hee.

I would like to know if Margaret Sullivan's father's kin came from Ireland. I peddled papers and show bills during her ascendency in movies and loved her then, and now. There was ab expression in her looks and acting that is/was just great, not to be copied. Bernie

I recall Frank Capra explaining in his autobiography, "The Name Above the Title," that both before and during America's involvement in WWII; studio heads were very hesitant against using Jewish-styled comedians or even indicating that a character was of the Hebrew faith because they didn't want to give the Nazi propoganda machine any ammunition with which to use to point at and fire against the Hebrew nation. We all know what lying, bullying, cowards those people were and how they would have had a field day with any material that they could twist to their own sick devices.

Jon McMillan

Just wanted to note that last month (March 9, to be exact, though the family did NOT release the information until two weeks later), William Leland Hayward died, of what was described in the obituary (NY Times) as a "self-inflicted gunshot wound".

His mother, Margaret Sullavan, and his sister, Bridget Hayward, both died within a year of each other in 1960-61, of (accidental or deliberate) suicides.

Funny thing: i always associated Margaret Sullavan as a star from the MGM heyday, because during the 1950s and 1960s, the films of hers that were most readily available on TV and in revival were THREE COMRADES, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, THE MORTAL STORM, and THE SHOPWORN ANGEL. Later on, i was surprised to find out that her tenure at MGM lasted only 5 years, for a total of 7 films.


I'm grateful to learn I'm not the only person today who adores the incomparable Margaret Sullavan. Her many qualities -- aside from her rare luminescence and rich, resonant voice -- may be otherwise hard to define. I've read that in life she was comely but short, snaggle-toothed and by all accounts prone to unhappiness and severe depression. Yet from the first moment I saw her on screen (in The Little Shop Around the Corner) I was utterly bewitched. I also think it likely that she chose such prophetic anti-war/anti-Nazi films such as Three Comrades and The Mortal Storm by conviction, not by accident. This suggests, in additional to her other assets, that Margaret Sullavan was possessed by a moral and intellectual courage. After all, in the 1930's Hollywood studios -- and MGM in particular -- avoided shadowy European political themes for fear that such topical matters would erode their lucrative European markets. Yes, shame on the studio system. And kudos to the radiant Margaret Sullavan for using her stardom to enlighten, inform and captivate US audiences. I've since made a point of watching all 16 film she ever made at least twice, and if she struck even one false note I've never detected it. Quite simply, she is perfection.

Hello. I've just come across your blog on Margaret Sullavan. Thanks a lot. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's interested in her movies. Please join my group if you would like to talk about Margaret and her movies.

I just found your blog and enjoy the comments about Maggie. I'll be back.

Re. Margaret Sullavan - Right on, Danny! I'd also been trying to figure why she's not better remembered. Always so charming and a bit more down-to-earth and natural (she wasn't as "gussied up" as many of the big stars, though I love overdone Hollywood fashion myself!). Margaret Sullavan, Teresa Wright, Dorothy McGuire - all very elegant and natural beauties. Wonderful to watch and they all seem "approachable", too. Pesach Sameach to you and your family! Give my regards to Hollywood!

OK,but nowadays it is possible to swallow NO SAD SONGS FOR ME thanks to the performances and specially the one by Ms Sullavan


abel posadas

Just recently I seen (again) "The shop around the corner" and once again I fell in Love with Margaret. What a wonderful and beautiful woman. It sadden me to know that she had such a miserable marriage(s) and family life. Rest in peace Margaret. To me, you were the greatest.

I just watched Shop Around the Corner for the first time and Google Margaret Sullavan as I am one of those who confused her with Mia Farrow's mother. : ) Enjoyed your writeup immensely and I will check out these other films as well.

The Mortal Storm depicted Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) in compelling and realistic scenes--the ominous neighbor-against-neighbor violence that occurred on November 9-10, 1938. Kristallnacht kicked off efforts to ramp up economic and political persecution of Jews and was part of Nazi Germany's broader racial policy at the beginning of The Final Solution and the Holocaust.
It's a fine film and one I wish everyone will continue to view and learn from.

The film "The Mortal Storm" is about a period in Germany that begins in 1933. So many of the things you say were happening in 1940 when it came out were not yet happening when the film is supposed to be taking place. Yes, the studios were not allowed to say certain things, but it got the message across.

Margaret Sullavan is dazzling in the film.

Hitler banned this movie, because it was so anti-Nazi.

I loved Shop around the corner and The mortal storm. Margaret was beautiful in both!

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