Matinee Monday: You’ve Got Mail


For the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about remakes. I first presented Gary Cooper’s Ball Of Fire, which was transformed into Danny Kaye’s A Song Is Born. Then I discussed Jimmy Stewart’s Shop Around The Corner, which was made into Judy Garland’s In The Good Old Summertime. Now, I’m going to be stepping forward in time to almost modern films, and present a third version of this classic story.

Nora Ephron took that 1930’s play, Parfumerie, that was the basis for Shop Around The Corner and In The Good Old Summertime and reworked it to create another sparkling iteration of the sweet story, giving us You’ve Got Mail. In the play and in the first two movies, the antagonists/lovers were coworkers in a shop. Ephron took a real life situation that actually happened in the upper West side of Manhattan and told the story with the antagonists being business competitors.

Casting Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as the leads was genius, seeking to re-capture the chemistry and magic that they had in Sleepless In Seattle. Jimmy Stewart, in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, had an Everyman quality about him. He just seemed to be a normal, down-to-earth guy that everyone could relate to. In the 90s, Tom Hanks was our Everyman.

Ephron’s twist in having Hanks and Ryan be competitors in business gave the story a new energy, opened it up to interesting possibilities and newer characters. In the first two tellings of the story, you had the same characters surrounding the two leads, the co-workers in the shop. In You’ve Got Mail, you have Ryan’s fiancé and other business partners, plus Hanks’ dysfunctional family. As well, Ephron pitches that out-dated penpal concept, and instead incorporates that new phenomenon, the Internet chat room. Hanks and Ryan meet online and become anonymous email correspondents.

In this delightful scene, the two email correspondents are supposed to meet; however, when Hanks has a coworker look into the restaurant to see if his date is ugly, he learns that his email friend is actually his business enemy. He decides to meet her anyway, not as the date she is expecting, but rather as her hated business rival. Enjoy.

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