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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.

Director:

Henry Koster

Writers:

Philip Rapp (screenplay), Harry Kurnitz (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Danny Kaye ... Georgi
Walter Slezak ... Yakov
Barbara Bates ... Leza
Elsa Lanchester ... Maria
Gene Lockhart ... The Mayor
Alan Hale ... Kovatch
Walter Catlett ... Col. Castine
Rhys Williams ... Inspector General
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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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 December 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Happy Times See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Near the beginning of the movie Leza (Barbara Bates) is tightening the corset of Maria (Elsa Lanchester. Maria demands that Leza tighten the corset more and Leza explains that it's already tight. After Maria leaves, another character comments that Leza was correct and the corset was too tight: "it makes her eyes bug out." This was an inside joke, since Elsa Lanchester's eyes were somewhat protuberant. See more »

Goofs

Poor editing (redundancy): When Yakov is first hawking his elixir, and about to reveal Danny's "head" on the serving plate, he picks it up and turns in a far shot, and then immediately, in a closer shot, it shows almost exactly the same motion. See more »

Quotes

The Mayor: The hospital - have you cleaned it up?
Lazlo: Well, you could eat off the floors. We put sheets on the bed, and we got the goats out of surgery. I put charts on the foot of each patient's bed indicating the nature of their illness.
The Mayor: Good. Now at least they'll know what they died from.
See more »

Connections

Version of The Inspector General (1933) See more »

Soundtracks

The Inspector General
(1949) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Sylvia Fine
Performed by Danny Kaye
See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Be Elegant, Be Arrogant, Be Smart!!"
30 April 2006 | by theowinthropSee 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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