6.6/10
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41 user 8 critic

Idiot's Delight (1939)

A group of disparate travelers are caught and thrown together in a posh Alpine hotel when the borders are closed at the beginning of World War II.

Director:

Clarence Brown

Writers:

Robert E. Sherwood (play), Robert E. Sherwood (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Norma Shearer ... Irene
Clark Gable ... Harry
Edward Arnold ... Achille Weber
Charles Coburn ... Dr. Waldersee
Joseph Schildkraut ... Captain Kirvline
Burgess Meredith ... Quillery
Laura Hope Crews ... Madame Zuleika
Richard 'Skeets' Gallagher ... Donald Navadel (as Skeets Gallagher)
Peter Willes Peter Willes ... Mr. Cherry
Pat Paterson ... Mrs. Cherry
William Edmunds William Edmunds ... Dumptsy
Fritz Feld ... Pittatek
Virginia Grey ... Les Blondes - Shirley
Virginia Dale ... Les Blondes - Francine
Paula Stone ... Les Blondes - Beulah
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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 »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Russian | Esperanto

Release Date:

27 January 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Idiot's Delight See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,519,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Lana Turner was supposed to be one of the women of Les Blondes, but she had to go into hospital to fix a botched operation on her appendix. See more »

Goofs

In the middle of the "Puttin' on the Ritz" performance, the Les Blondes dancer second from the viewer's left is barely in step and not doing any arm movements because she is holding her costume's right-shoulder strap which has broken. The strap is no longer broken when it cuts back to the performers after a reaction shot of Norma Shearer. See more »

Quotes

Irene: Do you know that song? It's Kak Stranno - its Russian. Oh, its so lovely! It takes me back so far to the Winter Palace in Petersburg. La-la-la La-la-la Kak Stranno. That means, How Strange. It tells such a sad, beautiful story about two people, who meet and fall in love for one exquisite moment - and then they part. Like ships that pass in the night. Mmm-mmm-mmm-mmm Mmm-mmm-mmm KaK Stranno - How Strange.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The six actresses who play Les Blondes are not credited with individual character names. Instead, they are credited using the group character name "Harry Van's Les Blondes" followed by a list of the six actresses names. This appears on a separate title card after the cast list of the other credited roles. See more »

Alternate Versions

MGM filmed two endings for this film: one for American audiences and another, more spiritual and optimistic ending for International audiences because of the war clouds that were gathering in Europe. See more »

Connections

Referenced in That Girl: The Russians Are Staying (1971) See more »

Soundtracks

The Darktown Strutters' Ball
(uncredited)
Music by Shelton Brooks
Played briefly during the opening credits
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Mediocre But Intriguing Film Version of the Celebrated Play
19 April 2005 | by gftbiloxiSee all my reviews

Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning IDIOT'S DELIGHT was one of the great play of Broadway's "golden age of drama" in the 1930s: starring stage greats Lunt and Fontanne, it told a darkly comic tale of a group of people staying at an Alpine hotel--including small-time nightclub performer Harry Van and con-artist and sometime entertainer Irene, the latter passing herself off as a Russian of noble birth--whose largely shallow lives create a ridiculous and often disturbing counterpoint to the world as it edges toward war.

Unfortunately, and although it is fairly faithful the the stage original, the screen version of IDIOT'S DELIGHT is nothing to write home about, and not even starpower saves it; indeed, it proved one of Gable or Shearer's few box office failures. There are several reasons for this, but the overall problem is that the production has the feel of a filmed stage play rather than of a movie; director Clarence Brown fails to endow the production with anything approaching a cinematic quality. The cast is also problematic. Although he delivers a surprisingly effective song-and-dance turn with "Puttin' on the Ritz"--the only musical number he ever performed on screen--Gable is essentially miscast as Harry Van; Norma Shearer, almost unrecognizable in a blonde wig, is relentlessly over the top in her performance as the fake countess; and even the usually reliable Burgess Meredith (along with most of the supporting cast) seems overblown and stagey, as if he were playing to the balcony instead of the camera.

But in spite of these significant drawbacks, the disturbing nature of Sherwood's story still packs enough of a punch for us to recognize how powerful the material itself is, and the vision of fools dancing recklessly on the edge of war has clear resonation today. Still, unless you are die-hard Gable or Shearer fan, you might prefer to catch this one on the late-late show instead of purchasing the expensive and out-of-print tape.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer


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