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The Reluctant Astronaut (1967)

Approved | | Comedy, Family, Sci-Fi | 15 April 1968 (Denmark)
A NASA janitor is sent into space.


Edward Montagne (as Edward J. Montagne)


James Fritzell (as Jim Fritzell), Everett Greenbaum
1 nomination. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Don Knotts ... Roy Fleming
Leslie Nielsen ... Major Fred Gifford
Joan Freeman ... Ellie Jackson
Jesse White ... Donelli
Jeanette Nolan ... Mrs. Fleming
Frank McGrath ... Plank
Arthur O'Connell ... Buck Fleming
Joan Shawlee ... Blonde in Bar
Guy Raymond ... Bert
Nydia Westman ... Aunt Zana
Paul Hartman ... Rush
Robert F. Simon ... Cervantes (as Robert Simon)
Robert Pickering Robert Pickering ... Moran


Don Knotts is Roy Fleming, a small town kiddie-ride operator who is deathly afraid of heights. After learning that his father has signed him up for the space program, Roy reluctantly heads for Houston, only to find out upon arriving that his job is a janitor, not an astronaut. Anxious to live up to the expectations of his domineering father, Roy manages to keep up a facade of being an astronaut to his family and friends. When NASA decides to launch a lay person into space to prove the worthiness of a new automated spacecraft, Roy gets the chance to confront his fears. Written by Teresa E Tutt <tuttt@rpi.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Boldly going where no coward has gone before. See more »


Comedy | Family | Sci-Fi


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Arthur O'Connell and Leslie Neilsen would appear together again a few years later in "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) though they shared no scenes together in either film. See more »


The space capsule Roy is in is far too large. Mercury and Gemini capsules had small interiors, without the room for the extensive floating around that Roy is seen doing. See more »


Donelli: Fleming, you've been here two weeks now, and I don't think your mind has been on your work for one second!
Roy Fleming: Uh, um, well to tell you the truth, sir, my heart really isn't in this.
Donelli: We are not interested in your heart, Fleming! We want your elbow grease!
See more »


Featured in Ironside: Five Miles High (1969) See more »


Space Song
Music by Joseph Gershenson
Lyrics by James Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum
See more »

User Reviews

Space travel for idiots
4 April 2019 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

The Reluctant Astronaut stars Don Knotts as the owner and operator of kiddie ride in an amusement park somewhere in rural Missouri who has a fear of heights. He's something of a disappointment to his WW1 veteran father Arthur O'Connell, but he's mother Jeanette Nolan's darling little boy.

With a bit of pressure Knotts applies for a position with NASA. But after a big farewell blowout, he finds he's been hired as a janitor with Jesse White as a perpetually exasperated supervisor.

He does go into space, but quite accidentally and then because NASA is testing a most automatic space capsule one designed for idiots in space. That provides a lot of climatic laughs.

The film owes a lot of Preston Sturges's classic comedy Hail The Consquering Hero. And some of the astronaut sequences were tried out in the Road To Hong Kong with Bob and Bing.

A couple of other major roles are filled out well by Joan Freeman as Knotts's Missouri girlfriend and Leslie Nielsen as an astronaut who befriends him.

The comedy which is set in America's early days of space travel still holds up well for today's audience.

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Release Date:

15 April 1968 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

The Reluctant Astronaut See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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