The truthful soldier Stirling didn't know how to lie about his source of information, the talking army Mule, Francis, so he was treated as a lunatic and led to one after another hilarious situations, where the mule was the only one that appeared in his right mind. In the process of all this, the mule assisted in uncovering a spy, Mareen, who pretended to be lost among the jungles, but was actually... This is a perfect family film, even amusing to the adults. If people all have enough sense as this talking mule does, the world will be a much better place than its present condition. Written by
Mild-mannered bank teller Donald O'Connor (as Peter Stirling) explains some strange behavior to his boss by explaining how he met "Francis" a talking mule. We flashback to Mr. O'Connor's World War II service. In Burma, the wounded second lieutenant is stranded behind enemy lines. Francis carries O'Connor to an Army hospital, then disappears. Of course, of course everyone thinks O'Connor's crazy when he mentions befriending a talking mule. At a dance, O'Connor meets shapely Patricia Medina (as Maureen Gelder). Watch, here, for young Anthony "Tony" Curtis to appear briefly as a sex-starved soldier. Suddenly, Francis appears to whisk O'Connor away for an important mission...
Neither the best nor the funniest film in the "Francis" series, this first effort has lost a little freshness in comparison. Still, you have good chemistry between O'Connor and Francis (voiced by Chill Wills). The scenes with the duo, directed by Arthur Lubin, play well...
After the films ran their course, Mr. Lubin took the concept to TV with the series "Mister Ed" (starring Alan Young). Probably due to difficulty obtaining rights, "Ed" (a talking horse) replaced "Francis". Both were derived from literary works, where the horse preceded the mule. The preference of the talking animal for his human friend, his frequent attempts to take O'Connor (and later, Young) away from female companionship, adeptness with the telephone and other story elements are here. Lubin's series became charmingly more surreal over the years, fitting the 1960s perfectly.
****** Francis (the Talking Mule) (2/50) Arthur Lubin ~ Donald O'Connor, Patricia Medina, Chill Wills, Zasu Pitts
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