Francis (1950 film)
1950 theatrical poster
|Directed by||Arthur Lubin|
|Produced by||Robert Arthur|
|Written by||David Stern (also novel)|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||91 minutes|
|Box office||$2.9 million (US rentals)|
Francis is a 1950 black-and-white comedy film that launched the Francis the Talking Mule series. It stars Donald O'Connor as an American soldier who gets into trouble when he insists an Army mule named Francis can speak. The distinctive voice of Francis was provided by Chill Wills. It was directed by Arthur Lubin.
Second Lieutenant Peter Stirling (Donald O'Connor) is caught behind Japanese lines in Burma during World War II. Francis, a talking army mule, carries him to safety. When Stirling insists that the animal rescued him, he is placed in a psychiatric ward. Each time Stirling is released, he accomplishes something noteworthy (at the instigation of Francis). Each time, he is sent back to the ward when he insists on crediting the mule. Finally, Stirling gets General Stevens (John McIntire) to order Francis to speak, and he obeys.
During one of his enforced stays, he is befriended by Maureen Gelder (Patricia Medina), a beautiful French refugee. He grows to trust her and tells her about Francis. Later, a propaganda radio broadcast from Tokyo Rose mocks the Allies for being advised by a mule. This leads to Maureen being unmasked as a spy. The press is told that the absurd story was concocted in order to flush her out.
Francis is shipped back to America for further study, but his plane crashes in Kentucky. After the war, Peter searches for and finally finds him alive and well.
- Donald O'Connor as Peter Stirling
- Patricia Medina as Maureen Gelder
- Chill Wills as Francis the talking mule
- ZaSu Pitts as Nurse Valerie Humpert
- Ray Collins as Colonel Hooker
- John McIntire as General Stevens (as John McIntyre)
- Eduard Franz as Colonel Plepper
- Howland Chamberlain as Major Nadel
- James Todd as Colonel Saunders
- Robert Warwick as Colonel Carmichael
- Frank Faylen as Sergeant Chillingbacker
- Tony Curtis as Captain Jones (as Anthony Curtis)
- Mikel Conrad as Major Garber
- Loren Tindell as Major Richards
- Charles Meredith as Munroe, the banker
Production Dates: early May—mid-Jun 1949. Before its release in the United States, Francis was shown to Army troops stationed in West Germany in January 1950. Francis the mule was signed to a seven-year contract with Universal, according to an article in Newsweek. Before his film career began, he was chosen the official mascot of the national Democratic Party. Newsweek also reported that Francis' entourage included "a make-up man, trainer, hairdresser, and sanitary engineer, complete with broom and Airwick."
The film was the eleventh biggest hit of the year in the US.
- 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1950', Variety, January 3, 1951