Cast & Crew
In eighteenth-century Hungary, the emperor Napoleon sends his inspector general throughout the country to uncover corruption and report back to him. In Brodny, Yakov, a traveling medicine salesman, and his assistant, Georgi, are demonstrating Yakov's special concoction, Golden Elixer. When an old lady spends her last pennies on a bottle, hoping to cure her dying husband, Georgi experiences a sudden fit of honesty and, after telling her that the elixer is worthless, is forced to run away from the angry crowd. Furious, Yakov orders Georgi away. Georgi fixes a hole in his boot with a piece of paper signed by Napoleon and then wanders into Brodny, where he is arrested as a horse thief. Soon, however, having heard that the inspector general is nearby, the council decides that Georgi is really the inspector general in disguise. They release him from jail, and when they find the bit of paper with Napoleon's signature, they are convinced that their suspicions are accurate. The mayor invites Georgi into his home, and together with the other councilors, plans a number of distractions to interfere with the investigations. The next morning, Georgi is about to tell the townspeople they have made a mistake, when Yakov, who is in the crowd, recognizes him and pretends to be his servant. Georgi is still determined to escape before his deception is discovered, until Leza, a servant girl, tells him that the people of Brodny are hoping he will stay and expose rampant government corruption and misery. That evening, various officials, one after another, visit Georgi's room to offer evidence of wrongdoings in exchange for mercy. Yakov takes advantage of this opportunity to demand money in exchange for silence. He tells Georgi that they will use the money to replace funds stolen by the council, which were to have been used to buy a church organ. Later, Leza overhears the council plotting to kill Georgi. She hands him a written warning, but Georgi, who is illiterate, asks Yakov to read it to him. Yakov claims it is a love letter, intending to send Georgi to his death. At midnight, Georgi hurries to the barn, thinking that he has a rendezvous with Leza. There, learning of Yakov's betrayal, he prevents Yakov from leaving with the funds he has collected. Georgi and Leza then take the money to buy an organ. While they are gone, the real inspector general arrives in Brodny, and when Georgi returns, he and Yakov are jailed. Impressed by Georgi's actions, however, the inspector general announces that Georgi is the first honest man he has met and names him the new mayor. Leza then joins Georgi as he greets the villagers.
Mrs. Pepi Sinoff
Fred M. Maclean
C. A. Riggs
The Inspector General
In Gogol's original, the fake inspector capitalizes on the villagers' error by living it up and seducing local maidens; in the film, however, Kaye remains pure of heart and really just wants to worm his way out of the situation. Walter Slezak shines in support as Georgi's treacherous old boss Yakov (purveyor of a fake remedy called "Yakov's Golden Elixir"), who tries to blackmail the local officials before the real Inspector General arrives on the scene. Adding to the fun are Barbara Bates as Kaye's true love, Gene Lockhart as the town mayor and Elsa Lanchester as the mayor's wife, who falls in love with Georgi.
The film's focus, though, is on Kaye and his antics, which include a funny acrobatic sequence set in a military training school where Georgi wrestles with a dummy. Kaye (1913-1987) was an extraordinary entertainer of great vocal and physical dexterity, known for his rapid-fire double-talk and seemingly able to twist his face and body into any shape. Many Kaye aficionados consider The Inspector General, along with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) and The Court Jester (1956), among his finest film work.
Sylvia Fine, Kaye's wife from 1940, served as co-producer and contributed original music to the film, including the Kaye numbers "Happy Times" and "The Gypsy Drinking Song." Johnny Mercer co-wrote the latter song, and Johnny Green won a Golden Globe for his musical score.
Producer: Jerry Wald, Sylvia Fine (associate producer)
Director: Henry Koster
Screenplay: Harry Kurnitz, Philip Rapp, Ben Hecht (uncredited), from play Revizor by Nikolai Gogol
Cinematography: Elwood Bredell
Original Music: Sylvia Fine, Johnny Green, Johnny Mercer
Editing: Rudi Fehr
Art Direction: Robert Haas
Costume Design: Travilla
Cast: Danny Kaye (Georgi), Walter Slezak (Yakov Goury), Barbara Bates (Leza), Elsa Lanchester (Maria), Gene Lockhart (The Mayor), Alan Hale (Kovatch), Walter Catlett (Col. Castine), Rhys Williams (Inspector General).
by Roger Fristoe
The Inspector General
Oh, I love my family, but I'd give my six kids to get rid of my wife.- Kovatch
Drink to me only wi-ith thine eye-eyes / And I will drink with my nose!- Georgi
The film's working title was Happy Times. A November 8, 1947 Los Angeles Times news item noted that Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer were working on a script for the picture, but their contribution to the final film is doubtful. The Inspector General marked Danny Kaye's first starring performance for Warner Bros. Nikolai Gogol's play was also the basis for the 1915 and 1952 Russian productions entitled Revizor, two Czech films, released in 1933 and 1937, and the 1936 Chinese film Mad Night.