38 user 5 critic

Idiot's Delight (1939)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama, Musical | 27 January 1939 (USA)
A group of disparate travelers are caught are thrown together in a posh Alpine hotel when the borders are closed at the start of WWII.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Madame Zuleika
'Don' Navadel (as Skeets Gallagher)
Peter Willes ...
William Edmunds ...
Shirley Laughlin
Francine Merle
Beulah Tremayne


When song-and-dance man Harry Van returns from World War I, he finds work hard to come by. His greatest success comes as straight man in a phony vaudeville mind-reading act with the tipsy Madame Zulieka. While on tour in Omaha he meets acrobat Irene Fellara, and they have a brief romance. Twenty years later while Harry is on tour in Europe with a troupe of leggy blonde dancers, his train is stopped at the Swiss border and he finds himself stranded in the Alps in anticipation of World War II hostilities. Harry and his chorines take refuge in an Alpine hotel with a group of disparate travelers who are also marooned there. Among them are an American pacifist, British newlyweds, a cancer researcher, a German munitions manufacturer, and a beautiful blonde expatriate Russian aristocrat who looks suspiciously like the Irene of two decades earlier. Written by duke1029@aol.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Biggest Thrill They Ever Gave You! Norma and Clark together in the romance of a "ham" song-and-dance man and a "red-headed liar from Omaha." See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




| |

Release Date:

27 January 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Az élet komédiása  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Idiot's Delight (1939) served as the basis of the stage musical "Dance a Little Closer" (book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Charles Strouse). Directed by Lerner and starring Len Cariou and Liz Robertson, it opened in New York on May 11, 1983, closing the same night. See more »


During the air battle in the ending shot for the international market the background film is clearly looped since the same twin-tailed airplane (similar to an American P-38) flies past the window 8 times. See more »


Harry Van: [to Irene] Excuse me, but were you always blonde?
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Crazy Credits

The actresses who play "Les Blondes" are not credited individually; they are given the credit "Harry Van's 'Les Blondes'......Themselves", similar to the manner in which the "Munchkins" were credited in "The Wizard of Oz", another film released that year by M-G-M. See more »


Featured in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Big Parade Hits for 1940 (1940) See more »


Jolly Robbers Overture
Music by Franz von Suppé
Played by the vaudeville orchestra at the end of Madame Zuleika's performance
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User Reviews

An idiotic stinkbomb with two gems inside...
28 June 2003 | by See all my reviews

The play was stagy and stilted to begin with; on screen it was all so much worse. There is virtually no directing, and of the principals, only Gable has a clue what he's doing. Poor Norma Shearer starts out fine as the ingenue, but with no notion of how to play the fake countess, she hams her way desperately through the rest of the picture like a high school thespian. It's embarrassing to watch. Just when you think nothing could be worse, Burgess Meredith bursts in like a misplaced character from another set, jumping around and shouting at the top of his lungs -- a hammy stage actor who seems not even to have been told there are microphones. The voice in your head keeps screaming "Cut! Cut! Cut!" for the missing director, who's evidently out to lunch.

That said, there ARE real merits in this movie. Gable is disarmingly charming as Harry Van. The play itself is an interesting period piece with a warning about fascism BEFORE we knew the worst. And then, there IS a kind of weird, whacky fascination in watching Norma Shearer taken over by that BIG platinum wig, which is almost a character in the play by itself.

Finally, there are two outstandingly memorable moments which for me make this movie well worth watching. Gable's witty, winking, sexy, song-and-dance version of "Puttin' on the Ritz" is something not to be forgotten -- AND, the man CAN sing and dance! The other sheer delight is watching the !GREAT! Laura Hope Crews in her brief but masterful portrayal of the tipsy Madame Zuleika, whose cheesy vaudeville mind reading act gets more hysterical with every furtive sip from her hip flask. I screamed with laughter, and you will, too. Laura Hope Crews should be declared a national treasure.

31 of 52 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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The two endings ziegfeldgirl1941
Are both endings on the DVD from Warner Archives? pms1962
DVD now available directly from Warner's webpage! simonhowson
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