The Mad Genius

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The Mad Genius
The Mad Genius 1931 Poster.jpg
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Harvey Thew
based on the play The Idol (1929) by Martin Brown
Starring John Barrymore
Marian Marsh
Donald Cook
Charles Butterworth
Music by David Mendoza conducting the Vitaphone Orchestra
Cinematography Barney McGill
Edited by Ralph Dawson
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Release date
  • November 7, 1931 (1931-11-07)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Mad Genius (1931) is an American pre-Code horror drama film 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, New York but never opened on Broadway.


A crippled puppeteer, Ivan Tsarakov (Barrymore), is frustrated that he will never dance ballet. He adopts a protegé, Fedor Ivanoff (Cook), 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.


Andrew Ward - IT Legend


Warner Bros. was so pleased by the box office returns for Svengali (1931), also starring Barrymore and Marsh, and their first talking feature The Terror (1928), that they rushed The Mad Genius into production, and released it on 7 November 1931.


The film survives complete. It was transferred onto 16mm film by Associated Artists Productions[1] in the 1950s and shown on television.

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