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This is the sixth and final film of the series produced by Universal that included Donald O'Connor, and director Arthur Lubin, who created the sequence. It would be charitable to state that this entry is up to the best of its antecedents, as O'Connor's tongue-tied routine as the chowderheaded sidekick of Francis the talking mule has become rather exhausting for audiences by the time of this release. Army lieutenant Peter Stirling (O'Connor) is advised by Francis that the mule has been "drafted" into the Navy and is positioned as surplus to be auctioned at the Coronado (Calif.) base. While attempting to regain Francis' freedom, Peter is mistaken for a lookalike bosn's mate, Slicker Donovan, is captured by the Shore Patrol and must then reestablish his correct identity while disinvolving himself from various examples of pulchritude with which the rakish Slicker has supplied him by default through their personality exchange. These latter include several of the studio's most highly considered contract starlets, including Martha Hyer, Leigh Snowden and Myrna Hansen, with the always enjoyable Virginia O'Brien attempting a comeback of sorts while restricted to a single scene. The ever efficient Lubin obtains maximum mileage from the dual performance of O'Connor, who stated after the film's completion that he found troubling the larger volume of fan mail received by the mule when compared with his own. Perhaps more telling is the failure of the popular actor to develop his character, a lack made clear by his adroit variant as Slicker. There is also a significant reduction in the use of Francis, and the minimal dialogue given to Chill Wills (his voice) lacks wit and is consequently delivered with scant spirit. Contributing most to the movie's potential appeal are early appearances of subsequently well-known actors, including Paul Burke, David Janssen, Martin Milner and, in his first credited role, Clint Eastwood. Despite the potentially interesting identity crisis involving O'Connor's two roles, it is plain that termination of involvement in the series by the director and star is a move to guard against further erosion of the lead characters' appeal
With Francis In The Navy Donald O'Connor called it quits with the
Francis The Talking Mule series. I guess he decided to call it quits
playing second fiddle to a talking jackass. And Chill Wills as the
voice of Francis also sad adieu to said mule. The final Francis film
would have Mickey Rooney and Paul Frees as the voice of Francis.
In this film Donald O'Connor gets a message from his friend Francis that he's been stuck in the Navy in San Diego and about to be sold as surplus at an auction. O'Connor goes to San Diego but finds he's continually mistaken for a sailor who is a dead ringer for army lieutenant O'Connor. It's only the beginning of the Comedy Of Errors situation with both O'Connor and another non-talking mule who looks like Francis.
So Donald O'Connor gives us two roles for the price of one her. I have to say that it got a little weird and freaky when army O'Connor starts romancing Martha Hyer who is a navy nurse and sister to navy O'Connor. She probably thought so to, both Hyer and her character.
A lot of familiar names who later made a mark on the small screen show up in Francis In The Navy. In the cast are Jim Backus, Paul Burke, David Janssen, and most of all Clint Eastwood who's height makes him hard to miss.
So with 2 for 1 O'Connors Francis In The Navy is a slight somewhat amusing service comedy which should give its viewers some laughs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The final episode of the Francis the Talking Mule film series that
starred Don O'Connor, with Chill Wills talking for the mule. Generally
regarded as the weakest of these 6 films. I've only seen one other, so
I can't make a judgement yet. However, I found it acceptably amusing,
for the most part. Don plays 2 look exactly alike characters:
one(Peter) an army officer, and the other(Slicker) a navy man.
Peter comes to this navy base to buy Francis, who is being auctioned as surplus. Meanwhile Peter is having constant problems with navy personnel insisting he must be Slicker. Several times, he is undressed (by men and women) of his army uniform and given a navy uniform. He is sent to the psycho ward for claiming he's not Slicker. Several of the nurses there get amorous with him. One is played by Virginia O'Brien. In the '40s,she appeared in a number of musicals in which she displayed her signature deadpan singing style. Her extremely minor role was her only Hollywood film appearance during a 30 year period. A young Clint Eastwood appears several times as one of the sailors.
Peter has various other misadventures, of course. He has to drive a landing craft, with no prior experience, and nearly hits another... Seems Slicker is a champion Navy welter weight boxer. Thus, Peter has to fight a bruiser, with only a little help from Francis. He loses and ends up in the hospital.
Eventually, Peter and Slicker meet face to face, and Slicker also meets Francis. They are seen facing each other at close quarters. Don't know how they did that in those days. Anyway, a WAVE officer enters and faints when she sees the two and hears Francis talk.
Another interesting sequence is when the 2 are together in a barrack and an officer walks in. They get on opposite sides of a mirror frame(mirror missing) and mimic the actions of each other, as if there was only one of them. A similar stunt was done in "The Princess and the Pirate".....The last part of the film deals with various mishaps in a landing exercise, in which Francis takes a small part. As with the prior films in this series, Arthur Lubin was the director. He would go on to direct the rather similar Mister Ed TV series.
Frances did not play nearly as an important role in this film as in "Frances Joins the WACS), which was a more entertaining film.
I am interested in the boat that this was filmed on. I was wondering if
the crew on the boat were actual Navy crew members and how could I get
a list. I think I saw my husbands navy buddy on it Lee Lucero and was
wondering how I could find out. My husband was aboard the USS TELFAIR (
APA 210 ) same as on the film and he did recognize one of the guys,
thinking it may be Lee. Since he did not know exactly where he lived
prior, has been hard to locate him. If anyone can help, please email me
at firstname.lastname@example.org I am trying to find this lost Navy buddy and
have been looking for years, we saw the film and realized that it had
his ship numbers on the ship. WOW, were we surprised. My husband was
aboard till late 1954. I have pictures of my husband and Lee but can't
seem to actually locate him. The movie was funny and we truly enjoyed
Thanks, Sheila Kelley
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