(director: Arthur Lubin; screenwriter: David Stern/from the novel by David Stern; cinematographer: Irving Glassburg; editor: Milton Carruth; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Donald O’Connor (Peter Stirling), Patricia Medina (Maureen Gelder), Zasu Pitts (Nurse Valerie Humpert), Ray Collins (Col. Hooker), John McIntyre (Gen. Stevens), Eduard Franz (Col. Plepper), Howland Chamberlain (Maj. Nadel), James Todd (Col. Saunders), Robert Warwick (Col. Carmichael), Frank Faylen (Sgt. Chillingbacker), Tony Curtis (Capt. Jones), Charles Meredith (Banker Munroe), Chill Wills (Voice of Francis); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Arthur; Universal; 1950-B/W)

Why such a silly, witless and ordinary film would become so popular, cannot be comprehended by me.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A low-budget simple-minded fantasy comedy farce directed by Arthur Lubin (“Footsteps in the Fog “/”The Thief of Baghdad”) without much creativity. It’s a one-joke comedy about a talking mule (voiced by Chill Wills), that’s set during World War II in Burma. David Stern adapts the screenplay from his own novel. There were six sequels made that starred Donald O’Connor. Lubin followed-up the talking animal bit by bringing it to TV as the sitcom comedy hit Mr. Ed.

Its inane comedy might be appealing only to those who are not demanding.

It tells of a
bumbling second lieutenant, Peter Stirling (Donald O’Connor), in civilian life a bank teller. He becomes a hero during the war because of the help received from the talking mule named Francis. When the junior officer tells the senior officers the talking mule Francis helped him escape from the enemy when he was wounded and lost from his company in the jungle, he’s sent to the army’s psych ward for treatment. After treated and cured, he’s sent to an intelligence division. He becomes a hero again when he goes by himself to capture a Japanese outpost just two thousand yards from his post, who are spying on them. Again sent to the psych ward when he tells his commanding officer, Col. Hooker (Ray Collins) a talking mule helped him. Again treated by the nurse Humpert (Zasu Pitts) and again cured to return to duty. This time he traps the beautiful spy visitor to his post, the mysterious Ms. Gelder (Patricia Medina).

The film begins with Stirling back at his bank teller job and living with Francis. When rumors circulate in town about his strange behavior, he’s forced to tell the bank president (
Charles Meredith) about the talking mule or be fired.

Why such a silly, witless and ordinary film would become so popular, cannot be comprehended by me. But the film is still well-known today and the mule might still be the most popular film animal (though I wouldn’t bet against Trigger or Lassie).