6.5/10
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Idiot's Delight (1939)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama, Musical | 27 January 1939 (USA)
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 ... 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:

Imagine! Norma Shearer as a "lady in tights"...who escapes from the honky-tonks into the rich world a Munitions King can give her! Clark Gable, the man in her life, whom she loved and left...and whom she finds again. See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was adapted by Robert E. Sherwood from his own Pulitzer Prize winning play. The original Broadway production, starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, opened at the Shubert Theatre, 225 W. 44th St. in New York on Mar. 24, 1936 and ran for 300 performances. A revival in 1951 ran for 10 performances. See more »

Goofs

After the girls leave to get a drink with the captain, and Harry is making hotel arrangements, a shadow of the boom microphone is visible on the wall to the left. See more »

Quotes

Irene: Do you think we'll ever see each other again?
Harry: Maybe we will and maybe we won't. You can't predict anything in show business.
Irene: Or in any other kind of a life, I suppose.
Harry: No, I guess not. But, I'll be thinking about you, babe.
Irene: Oh, I'm sure you will.
Harry: Yes, and as a matter of fact, I'd like to know that - you're thinking about me a little bit, too.
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 St. Elsewhere: Legionnaires: Part 1 (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

The Stars and Stripes Forever
(uncredited)
Music by John Philip Sousa
Played by the vaudeville orchestra during the acrobats' act
See more »

User Reviews

 
Odd film about the start of World War II in Europe
30 December 2007 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Clark Gable, Norma Shearer, Josef Schildkraut and Edward Arnold star in "Idiot's Delight," a 1939 film based on the play by Robert Sherwood. Sherwood certainly provided fertile ground for Hollywood. Not only were his plays, such as this one, "The Petrified Forest," "Waterloo Bridge" and "Tovarich" adapted, but he himself wrote some wonderful screenplays, including "The Bishop's Wife," "Rebecca" and "The Best Years of our Lives." He wrote the screenplay to "Idiot's Delight" as well.

Not having seen the play, it's a little unclear as to what "Idiot's Delight" was supposed to be - a comedy? A drama? A farce? A vaudevillian and his troop wind up having to stay at an Alpine hotel due to border closing as World War II is about to begin. There he meets a woman he swears he has already met - the exotic Irene, a blond Russian, who is traveling with an arms manufacturer (Edward Arnold). Some years before, Gable met this woman, he believes, when she had a different color hair and no accent.

Other people at the hotel are a doctor (Coburn), a pacifist (Meredith), honeymooners (Peter Willes and Pat Paterson) and an Italian officer (Joseph Schildkraut). War does break out, the borders re-open quickly - but Harry wants an answer to his question - is Irene the same woman?

This film possibly was intended to be a high-class version of "The Petrified Forest" with people of different beliefs all stuck in the same place, but with Gable dancing and Shearer doing an imitation of Garbo, the balance is thrown off a bit. Nevertheless, despite some comments on this board, they're both very funny.

Someone suggested Gene Kelly, had he been around, would have been good as the vaudevillian, missing the point that Harry isn't particularly talented, he's just glib. No one would have seriously cast Clark Gable as a musical comedy performer unless it was intended he be bad. Shearer goes all out as a black-gowned, platinum blond Russian holding a cigarette in a long holder. As Gable tries to pierce her identity, she regales him with wild stories.

So we have Gable dancing and Shearer speaking with a Russian accent on one side, and Burgess Meredith on the other, screaming his guts out about the coming war. In the middle is the medical scientist played by Coburn and the cold manufacturer of Edward Arnold, who doesn't seem to care if Irene has passport problems or not.

TCM showed two endings of this film - one for Europe and one for the U.S., the U.S. one totally ignoring the war. Watching both was fascinating.

Despite the comedy, the film has very serious undertones, but I wonder if they didn't get somewhat lost due to the power of the two stars. They both give first-rate performances, but one wonders if they were doing the same movie as Meredith et al. Nevertheless, well worth seeing.


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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)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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