The Inspector General (1949)

The Inspector Generalthe_inspector_general_danny_kaye
Directed by Henry Koster
Written by Philip Rapp and Harry Kurnitz based on the novel by Nikolai Gogol
Warner Bros.
First viewing/Netflix rental

The Mayor: Your Excellency – he took bribes, he drank all my wine, he-he-he yelled out the windows, he even made love to my wife! How could… How could I doubt that he was an Inspector General?

Your reaction to this musical comedy will depend almost entirely on your appreciation of the multi-talented Danny Kaye.  I can sort of take him or leave him and overall I enjoyed the film but was not wowed by it.

This is the Gogol novel, for some reason moved from Russia to Hungary.  As the film opens, we attend a town council meeting headed by the mayor (Gene Lockhart).  This gang of crooks is very worried because there is an inspector general prowling around in their district rooting out corruption and punishing it severely.

3482223_com_the_inspector_general_1949_2Georgi (Kaye) is an illiterate stooge in the travelling show of Yakov (Walter Slezak), a gypsy. He is fired for being unable to sell an invalid peasant Yakov’s worthless patent medicine. He wanders, starving, through the country side and is finally unjustly arrested for stealing a horse.  He is carrying a scrap of paper, which he can’t read, that has been signed by Napoleon.  When he is brought in, the council believes he is the inspector general despite his rags.  They dress him in finery and treat him to a lavish banquet.

The rest of the movie is filled with comic incidents as the town attempts to bribe Georgi and later to attempt to assassinate him.  Justice and love triumphs in the end.  With Elsa Lanchester as the Mayor’s seductive wife and Alan Hale as a member of the council.

The Inspector General (1949)1

This has some clever lyrics and dialogue and is entertaining overall.  I’m immune to Kaye’s mugging but his singing and dancing is quite good.  He certainly puts 110% of his energy into everything he does.  The Warner Bros. supporting cast is sterling as always.  My enjoyment was not enhanced by the faded public domain print of the film available from Netflix.


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