Customer Reviews: Idiot's Delight [VHS]
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on September 11, 2002
Gable is a burlesque hoofer who, following WWI, takes a job as an assistant to an alcoholic mind-reader, played by Laura Hope Crews. He and Crews practice a "code" whereby Gable relates information about the person asking questions in the audience to the blindfolded medium, thus allowing her to render intelligent answers. Crews is so drunk that she confuses the "tips" Gable gives her and mixes up her answers so that she and Gable are booed offstage, especially when ingenue Shearer, waiting in the wings, cues the drunken medium so loudly that the audience hears it. Years later, Gable and Shearer meet again in an Alpine hotel named the MONTI LODI en route to Geneva and amusing antics ensue. The kind of humour displayed in Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer-Prize winning play (which starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne on Broadway) and this film all but perished after the 1930's: broad, extravagant comedy requiring a perception of the double entendre and some literary background on the part of the viewer.
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on May 17, 2010
more charm than any man should be allowed. From his self-effacing grin, clipped moustache, dimples, and broooad shoulders he is the compleat movie star. Although not known for his dancing skills, he looks smart dancing to "Puttin' on the Ritz," with his bevy of blonde show girls (watch for Virgina Grey, Gable's long time on again off again girlfriend, as the most elegant of Les Blondes). Gable has a great match in leading lady Norma Shearer. She is always in character whether an acrobat from Omaha, or a Russian countess who escaped the "Bolsheviki" by the skin of her teeth in a variety of scenarios.

The script is an interesting take on the coming of WWII. Made in the magical movie year of 1939 ("Gone with the Wind," "The Wizard of Oz," "Stagecoach," etc) in retrospect we know the cause of the war was nazi fanaticism and not greedy munitions manufacturers, the story is still absorbing and not at all ridiculous. Along with stars Gable and Shearer, a great supporting cast (Joseph Schildkraut, Laura Hope Crews, Edward Arnold, Charles Coburn, etc) and expert direction by Clarence Brown makes "Idiot's Delight" a fun couple of hours. If you are lucky, both endings (domestic and international) will be included.
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Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning IDIOT'S DELIGHT was one of the great play of Broadway's "golden age of drama" in the 1930s: starring stage greats Lunt and Fontanne, it told a darkly comic tale of a group of people staying at an Alpine hotel--including small-time nightclub performer Harry Van and con-artist and sometime entertainer Irene, the latter passing herself off as a Russian of noble birth--whose largely shallow lives create a ridiculous and often disturbing counterpoint to the world as it edges toward war.

Unfortunately, and although it is fairly faithful the the stage original, the screen version of IDIOT'S DELIGHT is nothing to write home about, and not even starpower saves it; indeed, it proved one of Gable or Shearer's few box office failures. There are several reasons for this, but the overall problem is that the production has the feel of a filmed stage play rather than of a movie; director Clarence Brown fails to endow the production with anything approaching a cinematic quality. The cast is also problematic. Although he delivers a surprisingly effective song-and-dance turn with "Puttin' on the Ritz"--the only musical number he ever performed on screen--Gable is essentially miscast as Harry Van; Norma Shearer, almost unrecognizable in a blonde wig, is relentlessly over the top in her performance as the fake countess; and even the usually reliable Burgess Meredith (along with most of the supporting cast) seems overblown and stagey, as if he were playing to the balcony instead of the camera.

But in spite of these significant drawbacks, the disturbing nature of Sherwood's story still packs enough of a punch for us to recognize how powerful the material itself is, and the vision of fools dancing recklessly on the edge of war has clear resonation today. Still, unless you are die-hard Gable or Shearer fan, you might prefer to catch this one on the late-late show instead of purchasing the expensive and out-of-print tape.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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on June 11, 2005
When playwright Robert Sherwood wrote IDIOT'S DELIGHT for the stage, it was a huge hit on Broadway. Normally when this happens, Hollywood inevitably follows with a screen version. Under director Clarence Brown, the staginess of Broadway was unfortunately retained so that even the star power of Clark Gable (Harry Van) and Norma Shearer (Irene Fellara) was not enough to make this a memorable pairing.

The problem with IDIOT'S DELIGHT does not reside in the stagy feeling leaping off the screen. Rather, Norma Shearer as Irene plays two totally different characters that she tries hard to keep distinct, even though the audience (and her love lead Gable) knows quite well that they are the same. Norma as Irene is an acrobat who falls heavily for Gable as Harry. She tells him that they would make a good pair in his mind reading act. Harry disagrees even though he makes it plain that he loves her too. They separate and reunite ten years later at an Alpine resort somewhere in Europe. Part of the problem with the audience's identification with both plot, theme, and character is the overly brief way director Brown handles the decade long separation. Brown presents an unconvincing and dull montage of newspaper headlines that shout out the major events of the 30s. When Harry and Irene do meet at that Alpine hotel, Harry has not changed--he still is a dancing hoofer, this time the leader of an all girl troupe, Les Blondes. Irene has morphed into a blonde wigged Russian accented aristocrat who is the companion of a heartless munitions manufacturer. As Irene speaks in the broadest Russian accent imaginable, the audience soon wearies of her over the top verbal antics. By the end of the film, Irene reverts to her normal mode of speaking as she and Harry unite in a forced happy ending. It is this forced ending that also grates on the audience's willing suspension of disbelief. Director Brown actually shot two different endings, a European version that ended with a patriotic song of defiance and one for the American moviegoer that ended is a honky tonk rendition of the Jazz Age. As I watched both endings, I could see that the tragic undertones of a then looming war (the movie was shot before Hitler attacked Poland in 1939), overlaid the purported theme of delayed romance to such an extent that the audience did not know quite how to react to the finale of Harry and Irene singing as bombs burst all around them. Still, IDIOT'S DELIGHT is worth the viewing in that it acts as a dramatic counterpoint of irony when the munitions manufacturer boasts of the need for his product that will within a matter of months wreck the world. Gable and Shearer make this counterpoint bearable as their delayed love recovers its direction even as the rest of a mad world loses its own.
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on April 18, 2012
I loved this movie after the second time I watched it,Gable was great as a song and dance man.
And Norma Shearer's phony Russian countess is fantastic,this performance really stands out in a great career,her Russian accent is really funny and spellbinding at the same time.
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on July 25, 2009
"How Strange" is a phrase you hear throughout this movie and it's certainly appropriate. Gable and Shearer play down on their luck Vaudevillians who cross paths for 24 hours in Omaha during a traveling tour. She falls for him but he's not ready to settle down. They part and 20 years pass before they meet again.. or do they? Gable's character is a little older and wiser but Shearer's character Irene has reinvented herself as "Irrrena" an impossibly exotic Russian expatriate who denies ever knowing Gable. The setting this time is central Europe just before WWII is declared. As played, Shearer's character is so over the top as to border on camp. Gable doesn't quite know what to make of this creature and neither do we. She's like a drag-queen impression of Greta Garbo, her role model (allegedly) for this part. As the very real danger of war creeps ever closer Gable refuses to escape but stay's with the now stranded Irena. She drops the pretense and admits she is the Irene he knew in Omaha. As the bombs begin to fall they embrace and confess their undying love for each other. When the bombers recede into the distance, the two lovers, amazed to be alive, clutch each other as the music swells. This film is an odd mixture of low comedy and a deadly serious anti-war message that packs quite a wallop. Watch for Gable singing and dancing "Puttin on the Ritz". But mostly watch it for Shearer's IRRRENA! How strange indeed.

Though not restored the print is very good. No special features just the movie. One of my new favorites! Idiot's Delight
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on January 6, 2005
Not a movie I would recommend for most people, I personally will watch it anytime it is on. I prefer the stage, so that is probably why. Idiot's delight is a movie to be appriciated for it's unusualness, namely Clark Gable singing, and Norma Shearer in a blond wig singing in Russian. Had a very stagy feel I enjoyed. Also Norma Shearer's con artist character was charming, especially "O-ma-haha I have never been there" type comments. Was a little over dramatic at moments but I believe it was trying to make a very serious point. Many scences I throughly enjoyed, a fun ride over all.
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on October 27, 2014
Although there is a lot of good stuff in this film, it is a poor representation of a much better play. The film adds about a half hour of back story leading up to where the actual play begins at the hotel and the rest of the play in more than cut in half. Clark Gable is charming in this and his musical number, "Puttin' on the Ritz," is really fun. His band of back up girls all have individual personalities and make for a delightful company. Norma Shearer is also a hoot. However, the story is a mess and it's hard to keep involved between worthwhile moments.
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on May 7, 2008
I think this is another one of Gables funniest performances.Ive seen it a few times and enjoyed it everytime.It definetly is a must see for any Gable fan or anyone who hasnt seen much of Gable. True that the movie may not be very artistic but FAST TALKING, LIGHT HEARTED,CONFIDENT,FRIENDLY GABLE always does it for me, especially when we live in a time where movies have gotten very ''artistic" but lack everything else. I'm always charmed by Mr. Gables quality of an "easy going" fellow always taking life lightly, a great example and inspiration to me. Norma Shearer was also enjoyable to me and she does go over the top on the second half,however it is still enjoyable to watch her.Anyway I hope they release this one and the rest of Gables movies on DVD because I'm ready to purchase...
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on December 31, 2007
it's still a memorable movie with great lead perfomances. Maybe I should feel guilty but I found it a fun film despite its dark message and, the setting was perfect. BTW, I just finished reading the play and it is very close to the movie - the big difference being the play starts at the Hotel Monte Gabriele with no other preamble.
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