Francis (1950 film)
Theatrical release lobby title card
|Directed by||Arthur Lubin|
|Produced by||Robert Arthur|
|Written by||David Stern III (also novel)|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||91 minutes|
|Box office||$2.9 million (US rentals)|
Francis is a 1950 Universal Pictures black-and-white comedy film that launched the Francis the Talking Mule film series. The film was produced by Robert Arthur, directed by Arthur Lubin, and stars Donald O'Connor. The distinctive voice of Francis is a voice-over by actor Chill Wills.
During World War II, an American Army junior officer, Lt. Peter Stirling, gets sent to the psych ward whenever he insists that an Army mule named Francis speaks to him.
Second Lieutenant Peter Stirling (Donald O'Connor) is caught behind Japanese lines in Burma during World War II. Francis, a talking Army mule (voiced by Chill Wills), 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), and each time he is sent back to the psych ward when he insists on crediting the talking mule. Finally, Stirling is able convince General Stevens (John McIntire) that he is not crazy, and he and the general are the only ones aware of Francis' secret. In an effort to get himself released from the psych ward, Stirling asks Stevens to order Francis to speak, but the mule will not obey until it becomes obvious that Stirling will be arrested for treason if he remains silent.
During one of his enforced hospital 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 the question of Stirling or Maureen being an enemy agent. The press is told that the absurd mule story was concocted in order to flush out the spy, and with Francis' help, the real culprit is identified.
Francis is shipped back to the U.S. for further study, but his plane crashes in Kentucky. After the war, Peter searches for and finally finds the mule still alive and well and talking!
- 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
Francis shooting dates: Early May through mid-June, 1949.
Before Francis the mule's film career began, he was chosen as the official mascot of the national Democratic Party.
Before its release in the U.S., Francis was first shown in January, 1950, to Army troops stationed in West Germany.
Francis the mule was signed to a seven-year contract with Universal, according to an article in Newsweek magazine. 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 U.S.
Francis film series
- Francis, aka Francis the Talking Mule (1950 film)
- Francis Goes to the Races (1951)
- Francis Goes to West Point (1952)
- Francis Covers the Big Town (1953)
- Francis Joins the WACS (1954)
- Francis in the Navy (1955)
- Francis in the Haunted House (1956)
The original film, Francis (1950) was released in 1978 as one of the first-ever titles in the new Laserdisc format, Discovision Catalog #22-003. It was later re-issued on Laserdisc by MCA/Universal Home Video (Catalog #: 42024) as part of an Encore Edition Double Feature with Francis Goes to the Races. (1951) The double feature disc was released in May 1994.
The first two Francis films were released again in 2004 by Universal Pictures on Region 1 and Region 4 DVD, along with the next two in the series, as The Adventures of Francis the Talking Mule Vol. 1. Several years later, Universal released all 7 Francis films as a set on three Region 1 and Region 4 DVDs, Francis The Talking Mule: The Complete Collection.
- 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1950', Variety, January 3, 1951
-  (The Discovision Library)