Francis

JEROME GOODMAN

Francis is an Army mule who can talk. He gives orders in a voice which sounds like Wallace Becry imitating an Army mule; these orders are taken by an amicable idiot played gracefully by Donald O'Connor. Francis knows how to win the war single-footedly, and O'Connor can wiggle his cars and heehaw softly. Together they make an unbeatable combat team, but they do not make a very funny movie.

Obsessed by a strange type of affection, the omniscient Francis gives information about Japanese troops to second lieutenant O'Connor. When O'Connor becomes a hero and tries to share the credit with Francis, the lieutenant is gently hustled off to the psycho ward to weave baskets. A major-general, a colonel, some war correspondents and a large part of the audience also become candidates for the basket-weaving ward during the course of the picture.

When confronted with a talking mule, the picture's Army men do a double-take. Francis' feat of standing at attention with his tail pointing straight up inspires the same reaction. Situations like these are faintly amusing the first time; they are tiring when repeated every few minutes. Francis' superior intelligence marks him as a natural leader, but his rise is mulishly slow and painfully drawn out.

Francis is abetted by Patricia Medina, who plays some sort of spy. Miss Medina wears a shoddy French accent and not much else. She brightens up the Burma landscape considerably.

The second feature is "Black Shadows," a trip to the Belgian Congo accompanied by thudding tour-toms and mysterious chants. It has elephants and lions and leopards, and while none of them talk, they are at least as entertaining as Francis.