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An Inspector Calls (1954)
Warning: The full synopsis contains "spoilers" which describe key plot points. If you don't want to know the plot and outcome of this film then please don't read any further.

A Family Celebration

Begins in the family home of Mr Birling as Gerald Croft is being inducted in to the family as the betrothed of Sheila. Gerald is being teased about not really wanting to be part of the family due to his prolonged absence the previous summer.

The Birling's Family Celebration

The youngest son Eric is apparently a little �squiffy� already. The father offers up an optimistic toast wishing the soon-to-be-married couple �the best that life can bring�. He is delighted about the engagement of his daughter (new money) to a long-established aristocratic Croft family. He believes they are marrying at a propitious moment in history � a time of prosperity and progress. He scoffs at Eric�s suggestion that war may be in the air. They are living in 1912 and apparently war is a preposterous idea. As the ladies of the house retire to the drawing room Eric�s mother politely warns him that a couple of glasses of wine is quite enough for a boy of his age. It is quite apparent, even at this stage, that she is not really fully aware of how mature he is.

No Scandals

The Inspector Calls

As Mr Birling talks to Gerald he raises the issue of Lady Croft objecting to Gerald�s choice of wife due to her lower class background. But he believes that this hurdle may soon be overcome because he suspects that he in line for an imminent knighthood for services to industry and adds the jocular caveat �so long as we all behave ourselves and don�t get into the police courts�. Eric re-enters the room at this stage and is a little taken aback by mention of police courts.

Just as Gerald states that they seem like a nice well-behaved family to him, there is surely one of the most ominous character entries in cinema history (ominous due to Alastair�s demeanour and the splendid background music). �Mr Birling . . . . My name is Poole. Inspector Poole.� The Inspector has indeed called; he appears in the dining room as if from nowhere. Mr Birling is more than a little annoyed that he did not announce himself at the front door. Poole has no warrant but would like some information. After calmly taking his place in an armchair Poole declares that two hours ago a girl died in the infirmary after taking poison (a strong disinfectant). She had left a letter and some sort of diary. It appears that she had used more than one name in the last couple of years but her real name was Eva Smith. Mr Birling seems to recall the name but needs to be prompted by Poole that she was in fact a previous employee in his works. He shows Birling a photograph of Eva in order to aid his memory but deliberately (and almost ominously) conceals the photograph from Eric and Gerald. Birling now recalls that she worked for him two years ago which prompts the following flashback scene.

Unpleasant Business (Avarice)

Eva Smith asks for pay rise

Birling recalls an intelligent, good-looking woman who was on the verge of being promoted. However a deputation of five women workers ask to meet with Mr Birling with the view to receiving a pay-rise, believing it impossible to live on their current salary. After a brief discussion, Birling tells the deputation that he cannot accede to their demands; as they leave his office he and his foreman believe that the women will strike. Once the strike is over, Birling states that he will be willing to take them all back except the ringleaders, particularly Eva Smith who had �far too much to say for herself�.

The scene now returns the Birling dining room in the present day. Mr Birling protests that his decision to sack her could not have had anything to do with her death: Mr Birling believes that we cannot accept responsibility for every person we meet in life (see Memorable Quotes 1 ). Eric defends Eva�s right to ask for a higher salary only to be violently put down by his father as being unfit for holing an executive position in the firm. The way Alastair gazes at his pocket-watch throughout the scene is once again disturbing and ominous (as if time is running out). Sheila now walks in to the dining room and is surprised to find the new guest. Mr Birling hands the Inspector his hat as if to see him out but Poole calmly returns the hat to its original place on the armchair. Birling protests that the whole affair could have nothing to do with his daughter, but Poole relates the death of Eva to her anyway. Sheila Birling is concerned about this girl she believes she has never met and asks if she was pretty (see Memorable Quotes 2 ).

Jealousy (Jealousy)
Alastair with J B Priestley and Eileen Moore

Mr Birling, in many ways quite rightly, walks out of the dining room upset about how the Inspector has disturbed their quiet celebrations. Birling declares (of the evening) �A nasty mess you�ve made of it� and Alastair, delivering Poole�s every line with ominous double-meaning, retorts in a beautifully understated way (see Memorable Quotes 5 ). The Inspector goes on to relate the next stage of Eva�s life after she was fired. Eva was out of work for several months and came very near to starvation until she had a wonderful stroke of luck and she was taken on at a respectable clothing shop � Millwoods. She enjoyed her work, working among the pretty clothes. But after two months she was told she had to leave. A customer had complained about her. Anyone with a feel for the film now expects the hammer blow and, not unexpectedly, Sheila becomes pensive and asks when the complaint had occurred and what the girl looked like. The Inspector seems pleased with her quick recognition and privately shows her the photograph of Eva. With the aid of the second flashback scene, Sheila goes on to explain how one day she had been in a filthy temper and as a result there was a small scene at Millwooods.

Inspector Poole and Sheila BirlingSheila has her heart set on a hat that her mother has already told her was unsuitable. Eva is told to try on the hat to show Sheila how it looks; when Sheila then tries the hat a smile crosses Eva�s face at the ridiculous way it is perched on her head. Sheila goes on to create a scene in front of the management team which leads to the logical conclusion of dismissal for Eva. Sheila goes on to explain to the Inspector that if Eva had not have been so pretty then she would probably have not caused the scene; and the Inspector goes on to point out that in a kind of way Sheila had, in fact, been a little jealous of how the hat had looked on the pretty shop girl.

Morbid Curiosity

The Inspector startles GeraldThe inspector continues. Eva now had to start again and in an attempt to start afresh she changes her name to Daisy Renton. Now it is Gerald�s turn to look shocked and he walks in to the garden. Gerald initially denies that he knew her but when pressed by Sheila does say that he knew her but is reluctant to elaborate. We now find out the reason for Gerald�s prolonged absence the previous summer is that he had been involved with Eva/Daisy. Gerald rather ungallantly asks her not to say anything to the Inspector but Sheila is quite prescient and is aware that the Inspector already seems to know everything.

The Inspector and Mrs BirlingThe scene now cuts quickly to the drawing room where the Inspector has quickly engaged Mrs Birlington in conversation. Mrs Birlington is confident that none of the other family members has had any involvement with Eva/Daisy but Sheila walks in and tells her mother to be quiet. Sheila sees the way things are heading. Sheila states that she doesn't know much about police inspectors but never imagined them to be like Inspector Poole. Sheila pleads with her mother: "You mustn�t start building up a wall between us and that girl, because if you do the Inspector will just break it down and it will be all the worse when he does". Mrs Birling is aware that Sheila seems influenced by the Inspector (see Memorable Quotes 7 ). Words start taking on both a literal and a metaphysical meaning. Sheila is atuned to this whilst the others are not. The Inspector breaks off his conversation with the Birlings and asks Gerald when he first got to know Daisy. Gerald tries to deny the relationship but Sheila tells him it is of no use to deny the Inspector. Gerald informs them that he met Daisy in March at the Theatre. He met her in the bar which, as the Inspector points out, has an unsavoury reputation for women of a certain sort. (see Memorable Quotes 3 ) Gerald�s recollection takes us in to the third flashback.

A Distressing Story (Lust)
Daisy is harrassed at the Theatre

From the flashback (which is Gerald�s) we cannot be certain that Gerald entered the theatre bar for any immoral purposes. According to his story he sees Daisy being bothered by an overly attentive gentleman. Daisy, it seems, has come to see the manager of the bar about a job selling programs in the theatre but he had so far failed to turn up. Daisy comes over faint due to the fact that she has not eaten all day. Gerald takes her to a restaurant to eat. Daisy reluctantly lets Gerald see her home to her front door; however, it turns out that she has sunk so low in her fortunes that she currently does not have a room in which to stay. Gerald offers her his city flat under the strict understanding that he will never visit unless invited. The relationship seems quite noble but we must bear in mind that it is Gerald who is relating the sequence of events. He does invite himself around the next day, however.

The End of the Affair
Alastair Sim as Inspector Poole

The flashback continues as Gerald turns up at the flat with a hamper. They have a romantic meal and Gerald leaves; however they fall into each others arms and kiss. There is a dramatic cut to the Inspector in the present and he states : �And so she became your mistress�. Gerald is honest in admitting to the affair and liking the feeling of being the wonderful �fairy prince� to Eva/Daisy. Gerald goes on to relate that the affair proceeded along more or less conventional lines. Daisy eventually realises that the relationship has reached an inevitable impasse and intuits that Gerald has found somebody else. She nobly tells him that she had anticipated this moment and will leave his apartment the following day. He offers her money to tide her over but she refuses.

A Tissue of Lies

Inspector Poole wearies of Mrs BirlingAt the end of his tale, Sheila returns her engagement ring to Gerald, not in a fit of histrionics, but simply because she now understands that they aren�t the same people who sat down to dinner earlier in the evening. Gerald promises that he will return to try to romance her again. Poole now reveals the photograph to Mrs Birling who believes she does not recognise the girl. Poole states straightforwardly �You�re not telling me the truth Mrs Birling�. Both Mr and Mrs Birling are outraged and Mr Birling declares that he is an important public man, to which Poole retorts: �I suggest Mr Birling that public men have responsibilities as well as privileges�.

Poole reveals that he knows Mrs Birling is a prominent member of the Bromley Women�s Charity Organisation; he goes on to reveal that this is an organisation to which women in distress can appeal for help. We, the audience, and those in the dining room cannot help but realise what is coming. A meeting of the organisation took place two weeks ago. Mr Birling at this point tells them that Eric has gone out of the front door but Poole is �sure� he will be back as if he has a certain foreknowledge. Sheila is astute enough to know that if Poole is sure he will be back then he will be back. Poole reveals that Eva/Daisy appealed to Mrs Birling�s organisation for help two weeks ago but was refused. Mrs Birling refused help because the girl had told her a lie and was also impertinent. It was due to Mrs Birling�s influence as the most prominent member of the charity that Eva was refused. Mrs Birling refuses to discuss the incident; but as the clock chimes again, Poole states �You have no hope of not discussing it, Mrs Birling�.

A Cry for Help
Bromley Women's Charity Organisation

Poole pursues the facts. Mrs Birling, with no hope of avoiding his demands, gives us the next flashback as Eva/Daisy presents herself to the charity as �Mrs Birling�. This immediately raises antagonistic feelings in Mrs Birling who is chair of the charity. When pressed, Eva simply states that it is the first name that came in to her head as she used to work at Birlings. Because Daisy refuses to name her husband, Mrs Birling draws the conclusion that her story of a husband who deserted her is not true. Daisy goes on to say that she cannot seek work because she is about to have a baby. Mrs Levison, another member of the charitable committee, is very kind to her at this stage of the proceedings. She does not want to name the father and believes that he did not mean any harm � he was just silly and drank too much. Daisy says they cannot marry because they are not of the same class. Mr Birling believes that a girl in Daisy�s position cannot afford such scruples (refusing to name the father and refusing to take any further money from him). This �ne�er-do-well� is therefore to escape the consequence of his actions according to Mrs Birling. She cannot recommend putting the charities funds the way of Daisy and feels the man should be publically exposed.

Alastair as Inspector PooleWe return to the dining room and Mrs Birling continues to believe she is not to blame for Daisy�s fate. Alarmingly (almost), Poole asks �Tell me, who, who do you say is to blame then?�. She firstly blames the girl herself, and secondly, the young man, who she feels should be dealt with very severely. She goes on to say �He is responsible for the whole thing� and that the full power of the law should be brought to bear upon him. Sheila asks her to stop her accusations and almost doubles-up in pain at the blow she knows is about to fall. Poole states that he will do his duty in apprehending the culprit. Mrs Birling bids him goodnight but the Inspector says he is �Waiting �. to do his duty�. Ominous music sounds as Sheila asks if her mother cannot now see. Mrs Birling, now frightened, asks if the Inspector is suggesting, her boy is involved; the Inspector replies �If it was, Mrs Birling, we know what to do, you�ve just told us�. Poole inspects his pocket watch and asks Eric to enter the room. Poole states he has just heard Eric come through the door; but eerily he states this before Eric does come through the door.

A Chance Meeting

George Cole as Tram ConductorEric enters and intuitively knows that they are all aware of his guilt. Eric takes a drink and, in the penultimate flashback, tells us how he met Eva/Daisy. Eric is drunk on a tram (The tram conductor is played by George Cole � Alastair�s prot�g� who will continue to appear in many more films with Alastair). Eric has no change of a large denomination coin and therefore cannot pay the tram conductor. Eva/Daisy pays his fair. He follows her to a Fish & Chip shop and acts in a �squiffy� but rather engaging manner.

A Debt of Honour

Rather like Gerald, Eric sees Daisy home. He plays upon her sympathy, saying he is cold, wet, tired and cannot go home until he is sober. A relationship begins and Eric continues to see Eva/Daisy.

Eric contemplates theftWe return to the present. Inspector Poole knowingly informs the room that one night Eva/Daisy tells Eric some news. Eric storms out in anger and despair and collapses on the stairs. A further flashback shows Eva/Daisy telling him she is having a baby. He asks her to marry him but she refuses because she knows he does not love her. He offers to support her and the child but she knows her has no real money of his own. We then see Eric in his father�s office asking him for a raise in salary. He tells his father that he has a debt of honour to repay; his father probably assumes gambling debts but we know he is speaking more metaphorically. As his father leaves the office, we see Eric nearly steal from the safe but he closes it again without taking any money. However, in his frustration, he comes upon a �Received With Thanks � Birling & Son� stamp and we see that he intends to defraud the company through false invoicing/payment. He gave Eva/Daisy about �50 in total.

When the Inspector states that he may have to charge Eric with a criminal offence Mrs Birling begs him not to. The Inspector reminds her that this was not her attitude several minutes ago. Daisy refuses to take any more money when she realises it is stolen. This is when Eva/Daisy applied to Mrs Birling�s charity. Eric now accuses his mother of killing both Eva/Daisy and his own child. Mr Birling selfishly asks if there will be a full inquiry or can the whole incident �be forgotten�. Mr Birling says he would offer thousands of pounds for this to have not happened but Eric tells him he is offering money at the wrong time. Sheila, once again, proves she has assimilated the essence of the problem and realises it isn't only Eva Smith but all the other hurts we do to people without realising it (see Memorable Quotes 8 ). The Inspector is pleased at this recognition. As the Inspector and Mr & Mrs Birling go off to find the Inspector�s hat, Eric and Sheila have a reconciliation and realise that they must change their behaviour.

The Plot Thickens

The scene now cuts to Gerald who is roaming the street outside the Birling�s house. He happens to bump in to local police sergeant on his beat and asks him about Inspector Poole. He is informed that there is no Inspector Poole in the Bromley division. Gerald races back to the house and arrives just as the Inspector is taking his leave of the Birling family.

Birling asks the Inspector to stay in the studyGerald asks the Inspector to wait while he relates his new to the family and the Inspector does not object and mysteriously declares �But it won�t make any difference you know�. Mr Birling asks the Inspector to wait in the study. Gerald reveals to the family that the Inspector is a �fake�. Mr and Mrs Birling are intensely relieved to discover the man who has questioned the foundation of their lives is an impostor. Mr & Mrs Birling believe that this changes everything but Sheila interjects �I suppose we�re all nice people now�. Sheila, once again reminds them of what the Inspector has done (see Memorable Quotes 9 ). They consider whether to turn over the Inspector to the police; Mr Birling informs Gerald that he cannot possibly escape from the study as the windows are barred. Gerald now starts to question whether they have in fact been involved in this girl�s life at all; the Inspector concealed the photograph so how do they know each of them was involved with the same girl? Was Eva Smith also Daisy Renton? They only have the Inspector�s word for it.

The Inspector waits in the StudyGerald decides that they should ring the infirmary to confirm exactly who has died. He is informed that no girl has died today and that there hasn�t been a suicide in months. Mr and Mrs Birling believe that all is now right with the world and they can continue as they had been doing. Sheila, however, is not satisfied because, as she declares, �I remember what he said and how he made me feel�. Eric is also frightened at the elder Birling�s response. Mr Birling returns to the study to �put a flea� in the fake Inspector�s ear. Worryingly, the Inspector remains unpeturbed and silent. The phone rings and Mr Birling is called away to take the call. It is the police informing him that a girl has just died on the way to the infirmary after swallowing some disinfectant. They have called to inform him that a police Inspector is on his way to ask them some questions. They return to the study but the mysterious Inspector has gone.


Mr Birling: But good heavens man I can't accept any responsibility. If we were all responsible for everything that happened to people that we had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn't it?
Inspector Poole: Oh yes . . . . very awkward.

Sheila Birling : [about the girl who commited suicide by drinking disinfectant] Was she pretty?
Inspector Poole: Not when I saw her today Miss Birling, but she'd been pretty, very pretty.

Gerald : It's the favourite haunt of women of a certain sort
Mrs Birling: Women of a certain sort? Here? In Brumley?
Inspector Poole: Yes, Mrs Burley, I'm afraid even Brumley is not entirely free from . . .that sort of thing.

Mr Birling: (exasperatedly) I don't intend to give you much rope.
Inspector Poole: You needn't give me any rope, Mr Birling.

An Inspector Calls European Poster

Mr Birling:(of the evening) A nasty mess you�ve made of it.
Inspector Poole: It is not of my making, I can assure you, Mr Birling.

An Inspector Calls UK 1 Sheet Poster

Gerald: You seem to forget that we�re respectable citizens and not criminals, you know.
Inspector Poole: Ah well, sometimes there isn�t as much difference as one would think. Indeed, if you left it to me I wouldn�t know where to draw the line.

Mrs Birling : You seem to have made a great impression on this child, Inspector.
Inspector Poole: We often do with the young ones, Mrs Darling . . . they�re more impressionable.

Sheila Birling : It isn�t only Eva Smith father, it�s all the other Eva Smiths, The things we do to people without realising it and if for once we�ve seen the consequences . . . .

Sheila:Just remember what that Inspector said.
Mr Birling: But he's not an Inspector.
Sheila: Well he inspected us alright.