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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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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

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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

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 »

Goofs

When Gable and Shearer are in the diner the year is 1919, right after the war. The song played in the background is "You Were Meant for Me" which was not written until 1929. See more »

Quotes

Irene: I told you then that I wasn't everybody. It's true; I'm nobody. But I learned it was no use telling the truth to people whose life was a whole lie.
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

Puttin' on the Ritz
(uncredited)
Written by Irving Berlin
Sung by Clark Gable
Danced by Clark Gable and Les Blondes at the hotel
See more »

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User Reviews

 
An Interesting Comedy That Is A Mixed Bag
25 November 2015 | by atlasmbSee all my reviews

When watching "Idiot's Delight", one needs to remember that it was released in 1939, the year WWII began in Europe and before the U.S. entered the conflict. Audiences did not know how long the war would last or that the U.S. would send its troops or that millions would die including so many civilians targeted by Hitler.

The film is adapted by Robert E. Sherwood from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which involves a variety of characters who are forced to wait in a Swiss hotel at the beginning of hostilities until the authorities allow them to cross the borders. The play did not include the portion of the film that precedes the hotel scenes.

With the earlier scenes, which include the relationship between Harry Van (Clark Gable) and Irene Fellara (Norma Shearer), the film lacks the central mystery of the play--is the Russian aristocrat Harry meets in the hotel the same woman (Irene) he met in Omaha, as he believes?

The other hotel guests include a pacifist activist, a German munitions manufacturer, and a honeymooning British couple. The proclamation of war has certain impacts on all their lives. But still, the future is very uncertain. The author "warns" the audience, through dialogue, that history has taught us war should never be trivialized by predictions of a quick resolution.

Despite the dark prospect of impending war, the film is a light-hearted comedy until the ending. The domestic film has a very different ending than the international release. TCM shows both endings, for contrast. The domestic ending seems appropriate, given the date of its release. The international ending seems almost prescient from today's point of view, but to a viewer in 1939, it would feel appropriately solemn.

Shearer's performance needs to be recognized as a parody of Garbo to be appreciated. She must have had fun with the accent and affectation.

The strength or weakness of the ending, including the lack of drama involved in the verification of the Russian woman's identity, might be points of discussion, but I think it could have been stronger.


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