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The Inspector General (1949)

Approved | | Comedy, Musical, Romance | 31 December 1949 (USA)
A town's corrupt officials think a fool is actually an investigator in disguise.

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Cast

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Leza
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Maria
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Colonel Castine
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Storyline

An illiterate stooge in a traveling medicine show wanders into a strange town and is picked up on a vagrancy charge. The town's corrupt officials mistake him for the inspector general whom they think is traveling in disguise. Fearing he will discover they've been pocketing tax money, they make several bungled attempts to kill him. Written by Daniel Bubbeo <dbubbeo@cmp.com>

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Release Date:

31 December 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Happy Times  »

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Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Nikolay Gogol's play, "The Inspector General" opened in St. Petersburg, Russia. in April 1836. See more »

Goofs

When Georgi sees the twins together for the second time, the same shot is used from the first time he sees them. This is evident as the background is different (the fireplace should be in the background in the second shot and it is not) and there is a girl, on the left of screen in the close shot, who is not there in the longer shot. See more »

Quotes

Georgi: [singing] Drink to me only wi-ith thine eye-eyes / And I will drink with my nose!
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Connections

Version of Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten (1971) See more »

Soundtracks

Happy Times
(1949) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Sylvia Fine
Performed by Danny Kaye
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User Reviews

 
"Be Elegant, Be Arrogant, Be Smart!!"
30 April 2006 | by See all my reviews

Danny Kaye's films with Samuel Goldwyn established him as a leading movie comedian - singer from 1944 through the late 1940s. For a number of years after he continued his popularity without Goldwyn in films like "Knock on Wood", "The Court Jester" and "Merry Andrew". It is likely that "The Court Jester" is his best film, but "The Inspector General" is close to the top.

Based on a 19th Century satiric play by Nicolai Gogol, Kaye plays Georgi, a decent fellow who works for the bullying Yakov (Walter Slezak). Yakov and Georgi travel around the countryside selling "Yakov's elixir" which is supposed to cure all kinds of illnesses (that Kaye sings in a tongue-twisting song by Sylvia Fine, his wife). But they are forced to flee when Georgi tries to stop an elderly woman from wasting her money on the elixir. Naturally Yakov is upset, and sends Georgi away until he learns to be crooked. Yakov has been using a fake official document signed by Napoleon as a come on in his sales pitch. Georgi is carrying it. He is arrested by the town constable (Alan Hale Sr.) for vagrancy, but the latter reads the letter. As the Mayor (Gene Lockhart) and his cohorts are awaiting (with dread) a visit by Napoleon's Inspector General to check their records (they have been feathering their nests), they think that Georgi is this Inspector General. When Yakov comes to town he quickly grasps the situation, and pretends he is the "Inspector's" servant. Slezak knows that there are real opportunities here.

The funny thing is that Gogol's play is not quite like the film. First of all, Gogol was writing a critique of government corruption in the Russian Empire under Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855). Gogol was a religious mystic and satirist (best recalled for his unfinished novel about serfdom, "Dead Souls", and his novellas "The Diary of a Madman" and "The Overcoat"). Normally Nicholas was a humorless despot, who hated intellectuals. But he liked THE INSPECTOR GENERAL, which attacked the worst aspects of Russian local government corruptions that the Tsar did want to see eradicated. Because he approved, the play was a great success, and became one of the few 19th Century plays that became part of the permanent world repertory.

But Gogol's targets were Russian, not French. Napoleon is not a background figure in the play. The Inspector General (actually the title is "The Government Inspector" in Russian) is from the Tsar. They have heard rumors of the corrupt practices, and are checking them. Georgi's character is not such a well-intentioned type in the play as he is in the movie. He is as willing to feather his nest as Yakob is, and they prove to be a highly successful team.

This is because the Mayor and his cohorts are quite willing to bribe their way out of the current investigation. This includes selling the Mayor's wife for sex, and paying out much in bribes and "gifts". And in the end, after "Georgi" and Yakob leave with their loot, the Mayor thinks he will be called to St. Petersburg for some really important post. But months later they hear of a letter circulating in the capital from "Georgi" boasting of how he fooled the Mayor and his cohorts. Then, just as things couldn't get worse, a servant announces the arrival of "a Government Inspector" to review the books. Everyone freezes in terror as the curtain falls.

The film softens "Georgi's" character, leaving Yakov as the greedy one (although Slezak does redeem himself at the end). The Mayor and his cohorts (who do things like collecting for a church bell but pocketing the money themselves) do try to kill off the Inspector General - there is a funny sequence at a party where "Georgi" sings a song about "sing Gypsy, dance Gypsy", and keeps on just avoiding drinking his doctored drink during the song. Georgi's guardian angel protects him. He also meets Leza, a servant (Barbara Bates) and falls for her. He debates how to appear before her as a General - should he be elegant like an Englishman, arrogant like a Russian, or smart like a German. In some ways "Soliloquy for Three heads" may be the best of the numbers in the film.

Although watered down from Gogol's stunning comic play, enough entertainment value remains in the film to make it worthwhile viewing, and a highpoint in appreciating Kaye's movie career.


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