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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Francis the Talking Mule

 One of my favorite movies of the 1950s was the Francis the Talking Mule series. Francis the Talking Mule stared Donald O'Connor as a bewildered soldier who befriended an old army mule that could talk. Second Lieutenant Peter Stirling (O'Connor) repeatedly found himself in a mental hospital. 
     Francis became a celebrity during the 1950s as the star of seven popular Universal-International film comedies. The character originated in the 1946 novel Francis by former US Army Captain David Stern III (1909–2003), son of newspaper publisher J. David Stern. After another studio turned down the property, Universal bought the rights for a film series.
     Francis the mule was a favorite comedy with the films based on the popular book about a military man who meets a mule who can talk. Arthur Lubin, the producer, of the movies later went on to create the Mister Ed TV series. Francis was trained by Will Rogers and apprentice Les Hilton, Mister Ed's trainer. The same technical practice of teaching Francis when to move his mouth was later used on Mister Ed. Mules are very smart and will do what they are asked as long as you are kind and gentle with them. 
     Francis was the very first recipient of the American Humane Association Annual Patsy Award which was given to animals in motion pictures for an outstanding performance. A trophy was engraved with the winners name. The award presentation lasted until the 1980's then it was discontinued. It was similar, to the Golden Globe awards today. The Patsy awards were televised years ago. It had popular presenters and hosts such as Betty White and Doris Day. These days if anybody gets an award it's the trainer. Francis won 2nd place in the Patsy Award in: 1952, 1954, 1955, and 1956 then was 3rd place winner in 1957. As with many things computers ruined much animal talent. Talking animals are now sometimes done with computer animation and sometimes puppets. to the special effects people. 
     Francis starred in 7 movies from 1949 to 1956 starring with character "Peter Sterling" played by Donald O'Connor and in the last movie Mickey Rooney. Chill Wills was the original voice of Francis and Paul Fees did the voice in last movie. More reading at True West

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