IMDb > Idiot's Delight (1939)
Idiot's Delight
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Idiot's Delight (1939) More at IMDbPro »

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Release Date:
27 January 1939 (USA) See more »
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 »
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. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
(2 articles)

 (From Alt Film Guide. 24 November 2015, 7:44 PM, PST)

Queen of MGM: Fighting Revolutionaries, Nazis, and Joan Crawford
 (From Alt Film Guide. 24 November 2015, 7:38 PM, PST)

User Reviews:
Interesting relic of it's age See more (38 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Norma Shearer ... Irene Fellara

Clark Gable ... Harry Van

Edward Arnold ... Achille Weber

Charles Coburn ... Dr. Hugo Waldersee

Joseph Schildkraut ... Capt. Kirvline

Burgess Meredith ... Quillary

Laura Hope Crews ... Madame Zuleika

Richard 'Skeets' Gallagher ... 'Don' Navadel (as Skeets Gallagher)
Peter Willes ... Mr. Jimmy Cherry

Pat Paterson ... Mrs. Cherry
William Edmunds ... Dumptsy

Fritz Feld ... Pittatek

Virginia Grey ... Shirley Laughlin

Virginia Dale ... Francine Merle

Paula Stone ... Beulah Tremayne

Bernadene Hayes ... Edna Creesh

Joan Marsh ... Elaine Messiger

Lorraine Krueger ... Bebe Gould
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Barbara Bedford ... Nurse #1 (uncredited)
Gertrude Bennett ... Woman with Powders (uncredited)
Margaret Bert ... Nurse #2 (uncredited)

Clem Bevans ... Jimmy Barzek (uncredited)

Hobart Cavanaugh ... Frueheim (uncredited)
Jimmy Conlin ... Stagehand (uncredited)
Anna Demetrio ... Fat Italian Woman on Train (uncredited)
Helen Dickson ... Mrs. McCreevy (uncredited)

Frank Faylen ... Ed (uncredited)

Bud Geary ... Ambulance Passenger (uncredited)
Jack Grey ... Townsman (uncredited)

Eddie Gribbon ... Cop (uncredited)

William Irving ... Sandro (uncredited)

Charles Judels ... Daka (uncredited)
Suzanne Kaaren ... Nurse #3 (uncredited)

Evalyn Knapp ... Nurse #4 (uncredited)

Edward LeSaint ... The Honorable Thomas McCreevy (uncredited)
Mitchell Lewis ... Chief Wahoo (uncredited)

Francis McDonald ... Flight Captain (uncredited)

Claire McDowell ... Crying Mother (uncredited)
Buddy Messinger ... Usher (uncredited)
Robert Middlemass ... Hospital Commandant (uncredited)
Adolph Milar ... Fellara (uncredited)
Rudolf Myzet ... Czech Announcer (voice) (uncredited)

Frank Orth ... Benny Zinsser (uncredited)
Garry Owen ... Newsstand Vendor (uncredited)

Paul Panzer ... Greek Chef (uncredited)

Emory Parnell ... Fifth Avenue Mounted Cop (uncredited)
Lee Phelps ... Train Announcer (uncredited)
Edward Raquello ... Chiari (uncredited)
George Sorel ... Major (uncredited)

Harry Strang ... Sergeant at Ambulance (uncredited)
Bernard Suss ... Auguste (uncredited)

Frank M. Thomas ... Bert (uncredited)
E. Alyn Warren ... Clerk at Royal Grand Hotel (uncredited)
Bonita Weber ... Woman with Catsup (uncredited)
Joe Yule ... Vaudeville Comic (uncredited)

Directed by
Clarence Brown 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Vicki Baum  uncredited
Robert E. Sherwood  play
Robert E. Sherwood  screenplay

Produced by
Clarence Brown .... producer
Hunt Stromberg .... producer
Original Music by
Herbert Stothart 
Cinematography by
William H. Daniels  (as William Daniels)
Film Editing by
Robert Kern  (as Robert J. Kern)
Art Direction by
Cedric Gibbons 
Set Decoration by
Edwin B. Willis 
Costume Design by
Adrian (gowns)
Makeup Department
Sydney Guilaroff .... hair stylist: Miss Shearer
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Robert A. Golden .... assistant director (uncredited)
Art Department
Wade B. Rubottom .... associate art director
Sound Department
Douglas Shearer .... recording director
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Eugene Joseff .... costume jeweller (uncredited)
Editorial Department
John Hoffman .... montage
Slavko Vorkapich .... montage
Music Department
Murray Cutter .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Paul Marquardt .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Leonid Raab .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Other crew
George King .... choreographer
Sol Haines .... rehearsal dance double for Clark Gable (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
107 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Did You Know?

The screen between the bar and the hotel lobby is an optical illusion that alternates between a cross and a swastika.See more »
Revealing mistakes: 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 »
Irene Fellara:But your place is rrrreally charming. I must tell everyone in Paris about it.
'Don' Navadel:We are rather proud of it.
Irene Fellara:There is something about this design. It suggests, eh, an amusing kind of horror. It is like somebody's tomb, isn't it?
See more »
Movie Connections:
Prelude to Act IISee more »


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13 out of 22 people found the following review useful.
Interesting relic of it's age, 10 October 2005
Author: theowinthrop from United States

Robert Sherwood's anti-war play IDIOT'S DELIGHT was one of the great acting vehicles of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine. Set in an alpine resort hotel, it is set really in 1937-39, that period when most people felt that another general European War was going to break out soon. And the threat and reality of war spreads until the final minutes when (in the play) Lunt is pounding out "Onward Christian Soldiers" on the piano while bombers are destroying the hotel all around him. In short, the world will probably destroy itself this time. The play was a triumph for it's stars, and won Sherwood the Pulitzer Prize.

It has dated badly, like so many anti-war pieces in the 1930s. The novel THIS GUN FOR HIRE was also anti-war, in that the villain (of the novel) was killing Europe's leading peace advocate statesman to enable a war to break out. When that novel was turned into a superior film in 1942, the plot was changed into the villains as traitors working for Japan (the original novel was set in England, not America). The changes there save THIS GUN FOR HIRE, but no such changes save IDIOT'S DELIGHT.

Let me be honest here - I have seen enough bloodshed in my lifetime to hate war. Most sane people hate war. But occasionally war is necessary. When it was to destroy the Nazis it certainly was (and that was the war that was threatening in 1937 - 39). It may even be necessary against Osama Ben Laden. But there is a genuine fear created from those antagonists. A war over the ownership of some rocky territory is usually not a decent reason to mobilize for large scale bloodshed. There are legitimate reasons to oppose warfare.

People like Sherwood and Graham Greene (author of THIS GUN FOR HIRE) happened to have latched onto a conspiracy theory regarding World War I that they just felt was true. Both men felt the real villains in 1914 - 1918 was not the various foolish leaders of the nations involved, nor the generals or admirals, or fighting men. It was the munition manufacturers. This stupid theory was given impetus in the U.S. by a special investigation committee into the sales of munitions in World War I that was conducted by North Dakota isolationist Senator Gerald P. Nye. Given the nickname: "The Merchants of Death" investigation, it suggested that an unholy alliance of gun and war machine factory owners and big bankers like J. P. Morgan and Kuhn Loeb & Co. had pushed the U.S. into war so that their profits could go through the roof. In England a similar view was seen in the career of the notorious arms salesman and industrialist Sir Basil Zaharoff. A man from the Balkans, Zaharoff sold arms to all countries (sometimes enemy countries at the same time) and supposedly pushed the governments into the great bloodbath to increase his profits. As Sir Basil was (erroneously) thought to be Jewish, Greene turned him into the villain of his novel (Sir Marcus, the arms manufacturer). Thinking along similar lines, Sherwood creates his version of Zaharoff as Achille Weber, the Edward Arnold role in the play and film.

No doubt munition stock zoomed during the war (except for the companies in the Central Powers who lost), but Zaharoff did not have that much influence. Suspected for being foreign born, he was not likely to be heeded on life and death matters to Great Britain or any of the other countries he dealt with. His importance was as much as anyone who would have offered to sell some new technology in each country - like Rudolf Diesel, the engine inventor, who tried to sell his engine in England.

Sherwood's Weber dates the play. He should have stuck to the problems of nationalism or of economic warfare. The real causes for war were badly ignored - at least in this film. The whole idea of the plot is that everyone in the resort happens to mirror all the countries in Europe, and when the war breaks up they are forced to return home to fight to the death. Typical is Charles Coburn, as a scientist working on a cancer cure. He ends bitterly returning home, to design war weapons with his knowledge of science. That is actually far more effective to get the anti-war message across.

Gable does a fine job as Harry Van (including his delightful song and dance number - which one wishes he had tried to repeat elsewhere), more concerned with trying to guess the identity of Norma Shearer's Irene than the impending war. Is she that phony he met ten years ago or is she actually a Russian princess? Shearer gives one of her best performances, joining Carole Lombard in THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS in imitating Garbo (albeit as a Russian, not a Swede). Arnold's role is meaty but small, and he is properly untrustworthy - ditching Irene at the hotel under scurvy circumstances. And Laura Hope Crews as the tipsy Madame Zuleika, in Harry/Gable's first acting job, is wonderful as the world's worst mind reader. I give the film a seven - it is entertaining enough to hold your attention, despite your misgivings.

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