Movie Mirrors Index

Idiot's Delight

(1939 b 106')

En: 6 Ed: 7


Adapted from Robert Sherwood's play, a Vaudeville performer meets a Russian woman in Omaha and again in Europe as another world war begins.

Harry Van (Clark Gable) returns from the war wounded and kisses nurses good-bye. In 1919 Harry performs vaudeville and sells tonic. Harry works with mind-reader Madame Zuleika (Laura Hope Crews), who drinks gin. Acrobat Irene Fellara (Norma Shearer) apologizes to Harry for ruining Zuleika's act. They eat at a cheap place, and Irene offers to work with him, using his code. Harry finds her in his room and buys her a souvenir in Omaha as they part.

In 1939 Harry travels in Europe with six blondes. In the Alps a train dumps them at a hotel. Don Navadel (Skeets Gallagher) tells Harry that war is imminent, and Captain Kirvline (Joseph Schildkraut) won't let them pass. Combat planes are tested. Achille Weber (Edward Arnold) arrives with Irene as a blonde Russian countess. Harry plays piano. Many planes take off, and Quillary (Burgess Meredith) preaches peace. Soldiers say that war is declared. Irene talks as Harry, Jimmy Cherry (Peter Willes) and Mrs. Cherry (Pat Paterson) listen to her experiences, opinions, and Russian stories. Irene denies she was in Omaha. Quillar says that Weber runs the arms business. Dr. Hugo Waldersee (Charles Coburn) seeks a cure for cancer. Harry tells Navadel that he will put on a show. Weber tells Irene that planes will retaliate, and they must leave; but she blames him for the war. Harry and the six blondes sing "Puttin' on the Ritz" and dance. Bebe (Lorraine Krueger) sings "Shame on You;" but Quillar reports there was an air raid killing people, and he predicts national suicide. Captain Kirvline arrests Quillar. Harry dances with Irene, who says she is in business with Weber. Harry tells Irene he knew her in Omaha, and she laughs.

Harry tells the six he won't dance anymore. Navadel says he is leaving too. Jimmy Cherry plans to fight for England. Captain Kirvline gives Harry their passports. Weber tells Kirvline that he will not vouch for Irene. Weber says that Kirvline shot the pacifist Quillar. Dr. Waldersee decides to go back to help his country in the war. Harry asks Captain Kirvline why the war is happening. Kirvline detains Irene, because her passport is from the League of Nations. Weber gives her money and says good-bye. Irene admits she knew Harry, and the blondes make him leave. Dumptsy (William Edmunds) in a uniform tells Irene bombs are coming. She says that all will lose in the war. Harry comes back alone to help Irene. She says she can't lie to him, and they kiss. Harry tells Irene they'll do the mind-reading act and join the blondes. Enemy planes attack, and Irene asks Harry to play a hymn as bombs explode.

Released seven months before World War II actually started, this drama prophesies another disastrous war. Only the arms manufacturer and the pacifist seem to understand that wars are caused by greed for others' property.

Copyright © 2001 by Sanderson Beck

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