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Idiot's Delight Details

FULL SYNOPSIS

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. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Norma Shearer
as Irene Fellara
Clark Gable
as Harry Van
Edward Arnold
as Achille Weber
Charles Coburn
as Dr. Waldersee
Joseph Schildkraut
as Capt. Kirvline
Burgess Meredith
as Quillery
Laura Hope Crews
as Mme. Zuleika
William Edmunds
as Dumptey
Fritz Feld
as Pittatek
Virginia Grey
as Shirley Laughlin
Lorraine Krueger
as Bebe
Joan Marsh
as Elaine Messiger
Bernadene Hayes
as Edna Creesh
Clem Bevans
as Jimmy Barzek
Hobart Cavanaugh
as Frueheim, the Theater Manager
Jimmy Conlin
as Stagehand
Frank Faylen
as Ed
Bud Geary
as Ambulance Driver
Eddie Gribbon
as Cop
William Irving
as Sandro
Charles Judels
as Greek Restaurant Owner
Evelyn Knapp
as Nurse
Mitchell Lewis
as Indian
Francis McDonald
as Flight Captain
Claire McDowell
as Mother
Buddy Messinger
as Usher
Robert Middlemass
as Hospital Commandant
Adolph Milar
as Fellara
Frank Orth
as Benny Zinssar
Garry Owen
as Newsstand Man
Paul Panzer
as Greek Chef
Emory Parnell
as Fifth Avenue Cop
Lee Phelps
as Train Announcer
George Sorel
as Major
Harry Strang
as Sergeant
Frank M. Thomas
as Bert
E. Alyn Warren
as Clerk, Grand Hotel
Richard "Skeets" Gallagher
as Donald Navadel
Frank M. Thomas
as Bert
E. Alyn Warren
as Clerk, Grand Hotel
Evelyn Knapp
as Nurse
Emory Parnell
as Fifth Avenue Cop
Clem Bevans
as Jimmy Barzek
Garry Owen
as Newsstand Man
Mitchell Lewis
as Indian
George Sorel
as Major
Charles Judels
as Greek Restaurant Owner
Buddy Messinger
as Usher
Bud Geary
as Ambulance Driver
Harry Strang
as Sergeant
Lee Phelps
as Train Announcer
Adolph Milar
as Fellara
Robert Middlemass
as Hospital Commandant
Claire McDowell
as Mother
William Irving
as Sandro
Francis McDonald
as Flight Captain
Paul Panzer
as Greek Chef
Eddie Gribbon
as Cop
Frank Orth
as Benny Zinssar
Frank Faylen
as Ed
Jimmy Conlin
as Stagehand
Hobart Cavanaugh
as Frueheim, the Theater Manager

Crew

Clarence Brown
Director
Hunt Stromberg
Producer
William H. Daniels
Cinematographer
Gus Kahn
Songwriter
Herbert Stothart
Composer (Music Score)
Herbert Stothart
Musical Direction/Supervision
Cedric Gibbons
Art Director
Edwin B. Willis
Set Designer
Adrian
Costume Designer
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