6.6/10
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43 user 8 critic

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 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

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

Joan Crawford desperately wanted the role of Irene. But Shearer's late husband, producer Irving Thalberg had left his MGM stock to her, so she had first choice of parts. See more »

Goofs

When Les Blondes carry Harry Van off stage during the performance of "Puttin' on the Ritz", the costume strap slips off the right shoulders of the two dancers on the end at viewer's right. When it cuts to the next shot of them entering the adjoining room, the shoulder straps are in place. 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

Featured in MGM Greatest Moments: A Video Sampler (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

Jolly Robbers Overture
(uncredited)
Music by Franz von Suppé
Played by the vaudeville orchestra at the end of Madame Zuleika's performance
See more »

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User Reviews

An idiotic stinkbomb with two gems inside...
28 June 2003 | by bowkieSee 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.


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