The Inspector General (1949)


Insp Gen

Henry Koster’s The Inspector General is based on Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play of the same name and stars clown-o-mime Danny Kaye as Georgi at his slapstick, Vaudevillian best. As the movie opens, Georgi is a gypsy performer in Yakov’s (Walter Slezak) Traveling Medicine Show. He’s the main salesman hawking Yakov’s Elixir which is, of course, just snake oil…or more accurately furniture polish. Because of Georgi’s loose lips of kindness, the villagers find out about the scam and they destroy the stagecoach, and Yakov & Georgi narrowly escape with their lives. Yakov is so angry that he dismisses the illiterate Georgi whose good deed is repaid in a neighboring village where he’s mistaken for Napoleon’s Inspector General, and the comedy of errors begins. Koster & the writers even tip their caps to Shakespeare’s play with the inclusion of identical twins, Izzick & Gizzick (Lew & Sam Hearn respectively in uncredited roles), who no one can tell apart. Normally, my wife Cindy & I screen these classics together but she wasn’t interested in The Inspector General for some reason so I had to screen it alone. I hate that! “Eh. I love my family, but at time I’d give both of my kids to get rid of my wife.”

Insp Gen - Gogol        Insp Gen - Georgi

Insp Gen - Kaye & Slezak        Insp Gen - Twins

The Inspector General wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, but it did win the Golden Globe for Best Original Score for a Motion Picture in 1950 for 5-time Oscar winner Johnny Green. Danny Kaye was given an Honorary Academy Award in 1955; and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award 27 years later at the 54th Oscar. Henry Koster was nominated for Best Director in 1948 for The Bishop’s Wife starring my identical twin, Cary Grant.

Insp Gen - Green

Which brings us back to The Comedy of Errors. As I said, The Inspector General is a comedy of errors, and while not a retelling of The Bard’s The Comedy of Errors, it is a tribute to it. There have been at least 12 actual film versions of it – either direct adaptations or modifications based on the script: 1 Canadian; 3 American; 3 from the UK; and 5 Indian. Bollywood apparently loves The Comedy of Errors. [Another big smile] But it isn’t just that piece that filmmakers love. William Shakespeare is the most filmed writer of all time. There have been well over 400 full-length film adaptations of his plays, many of which use the originally published script. Many have been critically acclaimed, but none more than Hamlet by & starring Laurence Olivier. Hamlet gets my vote for Shakespeare’s greatest play, and Sir Laurence’s version is a masterpiece. It won 4 Oscars in 1949 at the 21st Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Actor. In addition: Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo & Juliet won 2 Oscars in ’69; as did William Dieterle & Max Reinhardt’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in ’36; and Kenneth Branaugh’s Henry V in 1990, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Julius Caesar in 1954 which starred Brando as Mark Antony each won 1 Academy Award. 

Insp Gen - Shakespeare    Insp Gen - Olivier    Insp Gen - R&J

Insp Gen - Midsummer    Insp Gen - Henry V    Insp Gen - Brando

So now you guys can impress your friends with your knowledge of Wiiliam Shakespeare on film. And when they say in their high-pitched, obnoxious, nasally voice, “Oh, I hate Shakespeare. I don’t undrstand it.”, you can retort with nose in the air in your most refined impresonation of the British aristocracy, “I say there is no darkness but ignorance!”, so they recognize your intellectual superiority. But for now, click on the link below, wait 5 seconds & skip the ad, and tell your significant other with nose in the air in your most refined impresonation of the British aristocracy, “We’re going to watch Henry Koster’s The Inspector General.” At least this way someone will have seen it with the person (s)he loves! 3 Stars!

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