The first installment in my Classic Hollywood Christmas series finding WifeSavers principles in my favorite old Hollywood Christmas classics…
“Let me tell you something, Miss Novak. You may have beautiful thoughts, but you hide them. “
My three-year-old grandson was recently accused by another three-year-old of saying “thank you” too much. I was a little proud when I heard that. In my experience, if you want to do “too much” of anything, it oughta be saying “thank you”. If our boy can stay in the habit, his wife will say “thank you” to all the adults in his life who modeled the concept for him from toddlerhood. Appreciation works wonders in any relationship, but it is the most powerful between husband and wife; the two people who tend to overlook it most often. (I’m not sure why…a three-year-old can do it!)
Marriage loses its softness or tenderness when couples expect more than appreciate — and I’m using the word in its broadest sense. Say “thanks” more often, and it’s a big step in the right direction, but real appreciation is more than that. It’s an overall awareness: a focus on a person’s assets and contributions, rather than their deficits. It’s about what they do do, rather than what they don’t do. Appreciation looks deep into our loved one’s heart; for how can we say we really know our partner, let alone love them, if we do not appreciate them?
That’s the big conundrum in The Shop Around the Corner, one of my favorite Christmas classics. In the 1940 version of this sweet story, Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan play Budapest store clerks who are forever butting heads. (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan played competing bookstore owners in the 1998 version, You’ve Got Mail.) The two are constantly disagreeing, criticizing each other at every opportunity, all the while unaware that they are actually… truthfully…secretly… adoring pen-pals! Lovers by letter? Antagonists in person? How is such irony possible?
As Jimmy Stewart’s character, Mr. Kralik, tells his nemesis (OR sweetheart), Miss Novak (Margaret Sullavan): “There are many things you don’t know about me, Miss Novak. As a matter of fact…there might be a lot we don’t know about each other. People seldom go to the trouble of scratching the surface of things… to find the inner truth.”
For months, in their daily interactions as clerks, Mr. Kralik and Miss Novak choose to see one another in the worst possible light, every little thing filtered through the lens of pride and offense. In their regular interactions by letter, however, the couple chooses to see one another in the best possible light. Which relationship will triumph?… If you haven’t seen the film (and you should), I’ll give you a hint: It’s the one, the only one, that can lead to happily ever after.
Leave a comment on this post to be entered in The Fifth Annual Classic Hollywood Christmas Giveaway! All thoughtful commenters on this blog between now and 11:59m PST December 31st, 2018, will be entered in a RANDOM.ORG drawing for one of FOUR Hollywood Christmas classics on DVD (including It’s a Wonderful Life) as well as an autographed copy of Wife for Life: The Power to Succeed in Marriage. Each comment (one per post please) will count as an entry. Come back and comment on all the Hollywood Christmas Classics blog posts (published Wednesdays in December) to better your chances!