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
"Francis" is extremely entertaining on the surface. It has likable characters and Chill Wills is great as the voice of the mule. It's a must for lovers of animals.
Almost from the start, though, I felt a subtext. Maybe this was conscious at the time. Maybe it wasn't. In 1950 when the movie was released, there were things more common than saying you were talking to a mule that could land you in the "psycho ward." (Hero Donald O'Connor is shown in scene after scene weaving increasingly elaborate baskets.) His superiors and fellow soldier deride him. The mule is of undetermined gender. The mule speaks in a wittily sarcastic way that presages the tone from "All About Eve." (Or Thelma Ritter's lines, anyway.) One of the two women in the movie is a temptress, maybe not so nice. The other is ZaSu Pitts. Pitts plays a rather plump nurse who is very understanding of O'Connor.
It spawned several sequels, which were doubtless aimed at children. But this seems in many ways like an allegory about the love that in those days dared not speak its name.
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