Plot: Peter (Donald O’Connor) has had some real adventures with his pal Francis, but now he wants to take on New York City, where he hopes to become a reporter. Of course, the city is filled with hopeful reporters, so he can’t break into the newsroom, but he does get a job as a runner at a publisher. As usual however, Francis is able to help Peter rise through the ranks, as the mule happens to be stabled with the police horses. This allows him to pick up all the latest gossip and breaking stories, which he relays to Peter and soon, he has the attention of his bosses. But when the scoops land him on the wrong side of local crime figures and in the middle of a murder trial, can even Francis help Peter navigate his way out of trouble?
Entertainment Value: This installment in the Francis series is no comedy classic, but I had fun with it. I tend to like the non-military themed volumes in the franchise and this one is no exception, as it takes a light, brisk approach that leads to some good laughs and fun performances. I know some have the opposite preference, with these more silly movies on the lower end, but I just think given the ridiculous premise, the sillier the better in this case. The narrative this time is of course outlandish, as Francis helps track down gossip and news stories, but if you have a talking mule involved, you can’t really nitpick, right? The focus is on light humor, letting Donald O’Connor do his usual routine as Peter, mixing in very brisk romance elements, and some stuffed shirts for for our lead duo to bristle now and then. There’s not a lot else to talk about here, the formula for the series is well established by this fourth movie, so it has a familiar texture, just with a fresh backdrop and some new cast members blended in. I had a good time with this sequel and I give it a solid recommendation, provided you enjoy these light, harmless comedies.
This was his fourth appearance in the Francis series, so Donald O’Connor had this role down pat by this point. As a solid comedic performer that’s no surprise, but he is able to get the most out of the character, even in the smaller moments. Of course, the script doesn’t exactly push his skills much, but O’Connor is able to make the humor work and is always a likable presence. That’s what the role calls for, since Peter is more or less a hapless, but likable character stumbling between scenes, under the leadership of a talking mule. As I’ve said before in reviews for the series, O’Connor is able to get a lot out of Peter’s scenes with Francis, which are of course over the top, but fun to watch and he runs with the premise. I think he is a terrific anchor for not just this movie, but the series as a whole. Gene Lockhart is also around here and I love his performances, so I had fun with his effort in this one. I wish he had more screen time, but I’m always glad to see Lockhart pop up in movies. The cast also includes Yvette Duguay, Gale Gordon, William Harrigan, and Nancy Guild.