Francis (1950)

91 mins | Comedy | February 1950

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HISTORY

Before its release in the United States, Francis was shown to Army troops stationed in Germany in Jan 1950. A 4 Dec 1949 HR news item reported that Universal was negotiating with Andy Devine for a major role. 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." On 23 Feb 1950, HR reported that director Arthur Lubin had closed a deal with Irving Mills Publishing Co. to publish a song entitled "Francis, the Talking Mule" for publicity purposes. The Harvard Lampoon honored Francis the mule with a "Yakademy Award" for "the most sincere performance to come out of Hollywood," and Francis won the first-ever PATSY award as 1951's Performing Animal Top Star of the Year.
       Universal made six more pictures featuring "Francis." Donald O'Connor played "Peter Stirling," Chill Wills provided the mule's voice and Arthur Lubin directed for all but the final film, the 1956 release Francis in the Haunted House . In that film, Mickey Rooney played Francis' friend, "David Prescott"; Paul Frees supplied Francis' voice and Charles Lamont directed. Lubin later created the television series Mr. Ed, the Talking Horse ... More Less

Before its release in the United States, Francis was shown to Army troops stationed in Germany in Jan 1950. A 4 Dec 1949 HR news item reported that Universal was negotiating with Andy Devine for a major role. 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." On 23 Feb 1950, HR reported that director Arthur Lubin had closed a deal with Irving Mills Publishing Co. to publish a song entitled "Francis, the Talking Mule" for publicity purposes. The Harvard Lampoon honored Francis the mule with a "Yakademy Award" for "the most sincere performance to come out of Hollywood," and Francis won the first-ever PATSY award as 1951's Performing Animal Top Star of the Year.
       Universal made six more pictures featuring "Francis." Donald O'Connor played "Peter Stirling," Chill Wills provided the mule's voice and Arthur Lubin directed for all but the final film, the 1956 release Francis in the Haunted House . In that film, Mickey Rooney played Francis' friend, "David Prescott"; Paul Frees supplied Francis' voice and Charles Lamont directed. Lubin later created the television series Mr. Ed, the Talking Horse . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Dec 1949.
---
Daily Variety
12 Dec 49
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 Dec 49
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 49
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 49
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 49
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 49
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 50
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 50
p. 10.
Los Angeles Daily News
23 Jan 1950.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Mar 1950.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Dec 49
p. 121.
New York Times
16 Mar 50
p. 40.
Newsweek
20 Feb 1950.
---
Variety
14 Dec 49
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
COSTUMES
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
DANCE
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Francis by David Stern (New York, 1946).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
February 1950
Production Date:
early May--mid June 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
17 March 1950
Copyright Number:
LP101
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
91
Length(in feet):
8,173
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When bank teller Peter Stirling draws whispers and funny looks from his customers, bank manager Munroe asks him to explain. Stirling states that it all began when he was stationed in Burma: Second Lieutenant Stirling is separated from his platoon behind Japanese lines, and there he encounters Francis, a talking Army mule. Francis carries the wounded Stirling to safety, but after Stirling credits the mule with his rescue, he is committed to the neuropsychiatric ward and assigned to make baskets under the watchful eye of his nurse, Valerie Humpert. Eventually, Stirling admits that he must have been mistaken and is released to active duty. Soon after, Maureen Gelder, a beautiful French woman, is given sanctuary on the base. She tells the officers that she was separated from her father when the Japanese invaded. Then Stirling, who has absolutely no qualifications, is assigned to duty as a clerk in the Intelligence department. The next day, Stirling finds a message from Francis on his desk. Not knowing that the other men put it there as a joke, Stirling rushes off to see the mule. At first, Francis refuses to talk to Stirling, but then reveals that the Japanese have set up an observation post nearby and suggests that Stirling capture it with his help. That night, Francis leads a terrified Stirling to the post, and they capture the two Japanese who are manning it. Later, the commander demands to know how Stirling learned about the post, and when he says Francis told him, he winds up back on the psychiatric ward. The psychiatrist diagnoses battle fatigue and recommends activity. When Stirling ... +


When bank teller Peter Stirling draws whispers and funny looks from his customers, bank manager Munroe asks him to explain. Stirling states that it all began when he was stationed in Burma: Second Lieutenant Stirling is separated from his platoon behind Japanese lines, and there he encounters Francis, a talking Army mule. Francis carries the wounded Stirling to safety, but after Stirling credits the mule with his rescue, he is committed to the neuropsychiatric ward and assigned to make baskets under the watchful eye of his nurse, Valerie Humpert. Eventually, Stirling admits that he must have been mistaken and is released to active duty. Soon after, Maureen Gelder, a beautiful French woman, is given sanctuary on the base. She tells the officers that she was separated from her father when the Japanese invaded. Then Stirling, who has absolutely no qualifications, is assigned to duty as a clerk in the Intelligence department. The next day, Stirling finds a message from Francis on his desk. Not knowing that the other men put it there as a joke, Stirling rushes off to see the mule. At first, Francis refuses to talk to Stirling, but then reveals that the Japanese have set up an observation post nearby and suggests that Stirling capture it with his help. That night, Francis leads a terrified Stirling to the post, and they capture the two Japanese who are manning it. Later, the commander demands to know how Stirling learned about the post, and when he says Francis told him, he winds up back on the psychiatric ward. The psychiatrist diagnoses battle fatigue and recommends activity. When Stirling is assigned to lead a group of soldiers searching for a Japanese patrol, Francis again provides help. On the mule's advice, the men set a trap for the Japanese, and Stirling is returned to the psychiatric ward. He is visited by Maureen, who seems romantically interested in him, and tells her about Francis. Francis now tells Stirling that enemy bombers will attack the base at a specific time. Stirling frantically tries to convince the commander to prepare. Eventually, because of Stirling's past record, the commander accedes to his demands. After the Japanese attack, Stirling credits Francis and is forced to take up basket weaving on the psychiatric ward. One day, Stirling is visited by Commanding General Stevens. Determined to finally prove his sanity, Stirling drags Stevens to see Francis, who refuses to speak. Stirling then suggests that as Francis is an Army mule, he might speak if Stevens ordered him to do so. After Francis finally speaks, Stevens apologizes to Stirling and orders him to be released from the hospital. Later, over Tokyo radio, a woman makes fun of the soldiers for believing in a talking mule. The press arrive, and Stevens orders Stirling to bring Francis to meet them. Meanwhile, the officers try to figure out how the Japanese learned about Francis. Stirling reveals that Maureen knew about the mule. Colonel Hooker, Stirling's immediate supervisor, then explains that they suspected Maureen was a spy and purposely assigned a naïve officer to trap her. When Maureen accuses Stirling of passing the information to the enemy, Francis speaks in his defense. Later, Francis is flown to Washington. When his plane crashes over Kentucky, the crew parachutes to safety, but Francis refuses to leave. Stirling tells Munroe that he then searched Kentucky until he found Francis, who is now living with him. When Munroe expresses his incredulity, Stirling brings him home to meet Francis. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.