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The Mad Genius

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Mad Genius
Directed byMichael Curtiz
Written byHarvey Thew
J. Grubb Alexander
Based onThe Idol
1929 play
by Martin Brown
StarringJohn Barrymore
Marian Marsh
Donald Cook
Charles Butterworth
CinematographyBarney McGill
Edited byRalph Dawson
Music byDavid Mendoza conducting the Vitaphone Orchestra
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Release date
  • November 7, 1931 (1931-11-07)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$400,000[2]

The Mad Genius (1931) is an American pre-Code drama film[3] produced and distributed by Warner Bros. and directed by Michael Curtiz. The film stars John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Donald Cook, Charles Butterworth, and in small roles, Boris Karloff and Frankie Darro. The film is based on the play The Idol (1929) by Martin Brown, which opened in Great Neck, Long Island but never opened on Broadway.[4]

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A crippled puppeteer, Ivan Tsarakov (Barrymore), is frustrated that he will never dance ballet. He adopts a protégé, Fedor Ivanoff (Darro as a child, Cook as an adult), whom he makes into the greatest dancer in the world. Fedor falls in love with a dancer, Nana Carlova (Marsh), but Tsarakov fears that she will ruin Fedor as a dancer. He tries to separate them and ultimately fires Nana from the ballet troupe. Fedor runs away with Nana to Paris, but Tsarakov has blacklisted him, and he cannot get ballet jobs and is reduced to working in a cabaret. Nana begs Tsarakov to give Fedor his job back. Tsarakov agrees, if Nana will leave Fedor and marry another man; she agrees. Fedor returns embittered; he sees Nana on opening night and realizes that she still loves him; he refuses to dance. Tsarakov threatens to kill him, but the ballet master, under the influence of drugs that Tsarakov has given him, kills Tsarakov. Fedor is reunited with Nana.

In the film Svengali, released earlier the same year, Barrymore played the title character who similarly manipulated the life of a female singer, also played by Marsh.



Warner Bros. was so pleased by the box office returns for Svengali (1931), also starring Barrymore and Marsh, that they rushed The Mad Genius into production, and released it on November 7, 1931.

Box Office

According to Warner Bros., the film earned $278,000 domestically and $122,000 foreign.[1]


The film survives complete. It is preserved in the Library of Congress collection.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 13 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. ^ John Sedgwick, Mike Pokorny, "Hollywood’s foreign earnings during the 1930s", 83 TRAC 1 (1) pp. 83–97 Intellect Limited 2010 p92
  3. ^ "The Mad Genius (1931) - Genre -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  4. ^ The AFI Catalog of Feature Films 1893-1993:The Mad Genius
  5. ^ Catalog of Holdings The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artists Collection at The Library of Congress, () p. 109 c.1978 by The American Film Institute

External links

This page was last edited on 24 October 2023, at 18:45
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