Idiot's Delight (1939)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
Watch it now
as Harry Van
as Irene Fellara
as Achille Weber
as Dr. Hugo Waldersee
as Capt. Kirvline
as Mme. Zuleika
as Mr. Cherry
as Mrs. Cherry
as Shirley Laughlin
as Beulah Tremeyne
as Elaine Messiger
as Edna Creesh
as Benny Zinssar
as Frueheim, the Theat...
as Fifth Avenue Cop
as Ambulance Driver
as Woman with Powders
as Woman with Catsup
as Czech Announcer
as Jimmy Barzek
as Hospital Commandant
as Greek Restaurant Own...
as Greek Chef
as Clerk, Grand Hotel
as Newsstand Man
as Train Announcer
as Flight Captain
as Donald Navadel
News & Interviews for Idiot's Delight
Critic Reviews for Idiot's Delight
WWII + Gable+ Gable singing! Add Norma Shearer for more MGM star power.
Audience Reviews for Idiot's Delight
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.
Idiot's Delight (1939)
This is kind of a weird movie for Clark Gable. You don't often see Gable doing soft shoe numbers, singing, dancing, and playing in vaudeville gags, but here he is trying to make a living on the stage. Harry Van (Gable) is trying to stay in the business, going from one partner and routine to the other. He isn't all that successful, but you know that he'll keep at it and eventually do good.
He meets up with a small-town country girl, and dreamer, Irene Fellara (Norma Shearer) and they sort of hit it off. Although the relationship is kind of doomed from the start, Harry can't seem to forget Irene.
Later, Harry is able to get a small troop of dancing girls put together and they're touring Europe and he bumps into Irene in a resort in the Alps just before the Nazis invade the country. Only this time Irene is acting like some over-the-top, campy, Russian aristocrat who is the mistress to a rich industrialist, Archille Weber (Edward Arnold).
This is Harry's last chance and you know that he's going to try to take it, as well as Irene. But, war is on the horizon. This is the beginning of the war movies of the 40s and everyone is gearing up for the fight to come.
Norma Shearer's performance, IMO will be the key to one's enjoyment of this film..because in order to do so, you would have to accept her over-the-top (should I say - hammy) performance as a faux russian expatriate who ( supposedly ) escaped the "bolshevekii" and winds up the wife of weapons magnate Achille Weber (Edward Arnold) on the eve of WWII.
Although Shearer's husband Irving Thalberg had died 2 years prior to this film's release, I'm sure she still had the clout at MGM to have gotten away with this kind of performance. Sure IDIOT'S DELIGHT is supposed to be a comedy...but it makes me wonder if someone thought to tell Shearer to tone it down a bit. Probably not.
Shearer stars opposite Clark Gable here, who plays the cocky but less-than-talented vaudeville performer Harry Van, who will take most any stage job that comes his way. When he isn't on stage...you can find him hawking encyclopedias door-to-door. It is while he acts as an assistant to a drunken mind-reader that Harry meets Irene Fellara (Shearer), a high wire acrobat. Harry and Irene have a short romantic fling but decide to amicably part ways when their respective acts take them in opposite directions.
Years later, Harry is now travelling as part of a song and dance act and finds himself stranded at an alpine resort in a nameless european country whose borders are closed suddenly by the military. While at the resort, Harry meets Weber, the weapons magnate and his sexy russian wife, Irena. Harry is almost certain that Irena is not the person she claims to be. She sure looks exactly like the acrobat he once had that fling with years ago...
IDIOT'S DELIGHT is billed as a musical/comedy but it's punctuated with dark undertones. It is based on a pulitzer-prize winning play by Robert E. Sherwood (THE PETRIFIED FOREST). I wonder how much of the play shows through in the film - which has moments when it's anti-war sentiments comes to the fore. Burgess Meredith plays a pacifist here and he seemed to have taken his acting cue from Shearer's performance...both hammy indeed, I must say.
Clark Gable is his usual self here and succeeds despite the short-comings of the film. He does a short song and dance number that apparently Gable was very nervous to perform... the only time one will actually see him sing and dance in a film. IDIOT'S DELIGHT might be worth watching just for that moment alone...
TCM actually showed two endings to this. One a US release version and the other an INTERNATIONAL release version. The latter may have been apropos in 1939 but really comes off as a bit too much like propaganda now. I just thought the US version worked better given the tone of the rest of the film...
Norma Shearer, IMO will do a better job playing a foreigner, this time in a dramatic role in her 1940 film, ESCAPE.
Idiot's Delight Quotes
Discuss Idiot's Delight on our Movie forum!