This was the penultimate film of Cary Grant's long career.
While the Royal Australian Navy evacuates Salamaua in February 1942 ahead of a Japanese invasion, Commander Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard) coerces an old friend, American beachcomber Walter Eckland (Cary Grant), into becoming a coast watcher for the Allies. Houghton escorts Eckland to deserted Matalava Island to watch for Japanese airplanes. To ensure Eckland stays put, Houghton sees to it that his ship "accidentally" knocks a hole in Ecklund's launch while departing. Houghton rewards Eckland's sightings (once they are confirmed) with directions to one of the whisky bottles hidden around the island.
Houghton finds a replacement watcher, but Eckland has to retrieve him from nearby Bundy Island. He unexpectedly finds Frenchwoman Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron) and seven young schoolgirls under her care stranded there. She informs him that the man he came for was killed in an air raid. Eckland reluctantly takes them back to Matalava with him.
There is no way to evacuate them safely. The fastidious Freneau and the slovenly, uncouth Eckland clash; they call each other "Miss Goody Two Shoes" and "a rude, foul-mouthed, drunken, filthy beast", respectively. He adjusts to her and her girls, however, and cares for her through what they mistakenly believe is a deadly snakebite. Freneau learns that Eckland had been a history professor before he fled civilization to the South Pacific.
The couple fall in love and arrange to be married by a military chaplain over the radio. Strafing by a Japanese airplane interrupts the ceremony. Since they have been detected, Houghton sends an American submarine to pick them up, but an enemy patrol boat shows up first. Leaving Catherine and the schoolgirls to make their way to the submarine in his dinghy, Eckland takes his now-repaired launch out to lure the Japanese vessel beyond the surrounding reef so the submarine can torpedo it. The Japanese sink his boat, but Eckland survives, and the submarine sinks the patrol boat.Cary Grant as Walter Christopher Eckland
Leslie Caron as Catherine Louise Marie Ernestine Freneau
Trevor Howard as Commander Frank Houghton
Jack Good as Lieutenant Stebbings
The children:Sharyl Locke as Jenny
Pip Sparke as Anne
Verina Greenlaw as Christine
Stephanie Berrington as Elizabeth Anderson
Jennifer Berrington as Harriet "Harry" MacGregor
Laurelle Felsette as Angelique
Nicole Felsette as Dominique
Father Goose was filmed on location in Jamaica.
When Grant was asked by a Universal Pictures executive to read the short story, he liked it well enough to pass it along to Peter Stone, who told him he wanted to write the screenplay. Grant then arranged for him to be signed to Father Goose; Stone's contract called for a picture a year for five years.
Director Ralph Nelson stated he tried to avoid professional child actors; with one exception, he succeeded.
The Japanese patrol vessel at the end of the film was portrayed by a former U.S. Coast Guard wood hull 83-foot WPB patrol boat.
Father Goose grossed $12,500,000 at the domestic box office, earning $6 million in US theatrical rentals, making it the 7th highest-grossing film of 1964.
Time Out Film Guide panned the film, complaining, "It's a shame that Grant ... should have logged this sentimental claptrap as his penultimate film" and "Grant frequently looks as if he really didn't want to be there, wading lost in a sludge of turgid drama and pallid comedy." Film4 agreed, stating "the story all too slowly descends into sentimental sludge."
In its contemporary review, Variety found more to like: "Cary Grant comes up with an about-face change of character.... [He] plays an unshaven bum addicted to tippling and tattered attire, a long way from the suave figure he usually projects but affording him opportunity for nutty characterization. Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard are valuable assists to plottage...."
Bosley Crowther, The New York Times critic, considered it "a cheerfully fanciful fable" and "some harmless entertainment". Of the title character, he wrote, "It is not a very deep character or a very real one, but it is fun."
The film won the Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, which was written directly for the screen by S. H. Barnett, Peter Stone, and Frank Tarloff, and was also nominated for Best Film Editing (Ted J. Kent) and Best Sound (Waldon O. Watson). It received a nomination for the 1965 Golden Globe Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy award.