Idiot's Delight (1939) - Rotten Tomatoes

Idiot's Delight1939

Idiot's Delight (1939)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Idiot's Delight starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne on Broadway. Set in a lavish alpine hotel bordering an Italian air base, the story throws together several disparate people, each in his or her own way affected by the World War that threatens to erupt at a moment's notice. The only person who doesn't seem to have a political or economic stake in world affairs is Harry Van, a two-bit American entertainer who is stranded in the hotel with his travelling all-girl troupe, "Les Blondes." Harry is convinced that the alluring Irene, the foreign-accented "travelling companion" of munitions tycoon Achille Weber, is actually an American girl with whom he'd had a one-night stand years earlier, but Irene laughs off his insinuations. Eventually, Irene turns to Harry for comfort when Weber proves too disgustingly warmongering for her tastes. When war breaks out and the hotel is targeted for bombing, Harry makes sure that everyone gets to safety; he himself stays behind with Irene, with whom he has fallen in love. The two sing a hymn as the hotel is blown to oblivion. When Idiot's Delight was filmed in 1939, Norma Shearer did her best Lynn Fontanne imitation as Irene, while Clark Gable remained Clark Gable in his interpretation of Harry Van (his song-and-dance rendition of "Puttin' on the Ritz" is a classic of sneering insouciance). The film underwent an extensive "MGM-izing": while the pre-European affair between Harry and Irene is never dramatized in the play, the film shows Harry and Irene commiserating in a long prologue set in a seedy vaudeville house--and, in keeping with censorship restrictions, it is made abundantly clear that, while Harry befriends Irene, he does not sleep with her. The munitions manufacturer, here played by Edward Arnold, is depicted as an aberration, and not representative of "honest" business moguls (many of whom were close personal chums of MGM head Louis B. Mayer). And, while the ending of the play does not tell us whether or not Harry and Irene survive the bombing, the film permits the lovers a sun-streamed happy ending.

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Clark Gable
as Harry Van
Norma Shearer
as Irene Fellara
Edward Arnold
as Achille Weber
Charles Coburn
as Dr. Hugo Waldersee
Joseph Schildkraut
as Capt. Kirvline
Laura Hope Crewes
as Mme. Zuleika
Peter Willes
as Mr. Cherry
Pat Paterson
as Mrs. Cherry
Fritz Feld
as Pittatek
Virginia Grey
as Shirley Laughlin
Paula Stone
as Beulah Tremeyne
Virginia Dale
as Francine
Joan Marsh
as Elaine Messiger
Bernadene Hayes
as Edna Creesh
Frank Orth
as Benny Zinssar
Hobart Cavanaugh
as Frueheim, the Theater Manager
Bernard Suss
as Auguste
Harry Strang
as Sergeant
Emory Parnell
as Fifth Avenue Cop
Bud Geary
as Ambulance Driver
Joe Yule
as Comic
Gertrude Bennett
as Woman with Powders
Jimmy Conlin
as Stagehand
Bonita Weber
as Woman with Catsup
Rudolph Myzet
as Czech Announcer
Adolph Milar
as Fellara
Clem Bevans
as Jimmy Barzek
Robert Middlemass
as Hospital Commandant
Charles Judels
as Greek Restaurant Owner
Paul Panzer
as Greek Chef
E. Alyn Warren
as Clerk, Grand Hotel
Garry Owen
as Newsstand Man
Lee Phelps
as Train Announcer
Francis McDonald
as Flight Captain
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Critic Reviews for Idiot's Delight

All Critics (5)

Clarence Brown has given the film snappy, brisk direction. However, it bogs down toward end and never quite comes off.

October 29, 2019 | Full Review…

Over-acting could hardly go further...

September 11, 2019 | Full Review…

WWII + Gable+ Gable singing! Add Norma Shearer for more MGM star power.

February 18, 2008 | Rating: 4/5

An unfulfilling adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

January 28, 2005 | Rating: C | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Idiot's Delight

Gable interestingly (because he's not what you call your first choice for this kind of role) plays a showbiz hoofer, back from WW1 and on the lookout for any job he can tag. Norma Shearer plays vaudeville carny performer. They meet for one night of love and then part, only to meet up again years later in Europe at the outbreak of WW2. Robert Sherwood concocted this basically anti-war message film but it seems to bear the imprint of many other hands and too many cooks... For instance, Shearer's kooky traveling artist persona grates on the nerves and one wishes Gable, ever a rock, would shut her up just once. Here is a mighty effort, although to no avail. Or in conventional terms: a bomb.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Enjoyable if dated comedy/drama with Norma giving an amusing Garboesque take on her character. Gable's famous performance of Puttin' on the Ritz is memorable because he is so easygoing and game. Good supporting cast and assured direction also contribute to making this a pleasant diversion. Try and see the version with the international and far better ending.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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