The year is 1936. The location is a remote ski lodge in the Italian Alps, formerly the Austrian Alps. An entrepreneur is struggling to keep his hotel in business. Just when his manager tries to tell everyone to clock out early, a group of varied international tourists all show up at once. There’s a British honeymooning couple, an American burlesque troupe, a beautiful Russian femme fatale, a German doctor, a French anarchist, and a rotating band of Italian soldiers. As soon as everyone is settled in, the planes from the Italian military base are heard taking off toward France.Robert E. Sherwood wrote the play Idiot’s Delight three years before the start of World War I. He was a cautious man convinced that something was going to happen on an unprecedented scale. All of the characters in his play represent the best and the worst of their country’s role in his imagined conflict, yet none believe that another war could ever happen like The Great War. Didn’t we all learn our lesson from that?
Sherwood’s masterful satire accurately predicts so much of what happened in WWII that you’ll get a chill down your spine. Switch Italy for Germany and France for Poland and he gets the order of involvement in the war perfectly. The minor elements he gets wrong are not so far from the truth. His text is so powerful that he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1936 for Drama.