Idiot’s Delight: Downright Entertaining

Throughout the years, I have accumulated quite the collection of classic films.  One might even call it a movie library.  As time permits, I attempt to watch those that I have yet to see.  When I came upon Idiot’s Delight, I did not have high expectations.  However, almost from the start, the comedy started to flow as Clark Gable and Norma Shearer shined, in this zany picture.  It was produced by the studio powerhouse MGM in 1939.  Norma plays Irene Fellara, a somewhat mysterious character, that is instantly attracted to Harry Van (Clark Gable).


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Harry Van is a World War I veteran that is insistent upon reentering into the world of show business.  He engages in everything from bit roles, to selling “miracle medicine” and other products on the street illegally.  During his various jobs, the movie presents some memorable scenes and dialogue.  At one point he is trying to sell encyclopedias door to door.  During one sales attempt, a very frazzled housewife appears.  Harry states, “Madam, I bring you the golden gift of knowledge.  The New University Encyclopedia.  It tells you the facts of life.”  Her response as the noisy disturbance of several children is increasing is, “I don’t want any facts.  I got enough of them already.”


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It is during his mind reading performance that he encounters a youthful and energetic Irene.  She proclaims that she would like to be the new assistant to his act.  They go out on the town together to get to know each other better.  Irene excitedly exclaims, “I’d be proud to be seen in a restaurant with you.”  To which Harry replies, “Wait until you see the restaurant.” Irene becomes convinced that they are destined for each other even stating, “I knew you were like me, a student of life.”  However, upon returning to the theater, they discover that the show has closed, with Harry deciding that they should go their separate ways.  They will not see each other for close to twenty years.


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During this time, the Depression come and gone, and now the world is faced with the possibility of World War II.  During this point of his life Harry is in charge of an act entitled, Harry Van and Co. (the company consists of six lovely blondes).  They are trying to get to Geneva for a scheduled performance, but the frontier has been such down due to the expectations that the war will commence any day.  It is at the hotel that they are stuck at that he sees Irene again.  Except now, she is bleach blond, wealthy, with over the top expressions and a drawn out Russian accent.


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Being stuck at this hotel, leads to countless comic moments and times of chaos.  Irene is full of tall tales including one story regarding her daring escape from the Soviet.  Harry goes on to tell another character, “She was the fanciest liar I ever met.”  You will have to watch the film to see how it all ends.  There are countless themes that are present.  Here are just a few:  anti-war sentiment, the struggle to find oneself, the response to fears is as individualized as the person, how to remain true to self as well as others, can’t run away from love or other feared emotions.  I will leave with some interesting quotes presented within this picture in regards to war and human nature.

Question:  “Who do you think will win the war?” Answer:  “They will all loose.”

A statement from a doctor stranded at the hotel.  “Why help people who want to exterminate each other?”

Irene:  “I thought if I lied big enough, I would get big enough….”


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