French comic actor Fernandel embodied the title role while remarkable Italian character actor Gino Cervi played his spiritual and political opponent. More than a rustic comedy, the film epitomizes the postwar political polarization in Italy and symbolizes the famous "compromesso storico"---historical compromise---under which Italy would long continue to be governed. This successful film spawned a series of popular sequels, mostly with the same two actors, all based on the Giovanni Guareschi novels. A point of clarification: this was a French-Italian co-production and was first released in the U.S. in its French-language version with English subtitles before the dubbed English version with narrator Orson Welles went into circulation. The Italian-language version, not readily available, is the most appropriate one.