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Famous and Infamous Animals In the Movies
Many animals have been used in the cinima since the first black and white silent films began, but they reached a star quality in the "talkies", sometimes becoming more popular than their human costars.
In the 21st Century, greater measures are taken to protect animals from harm in the making of films and television episodes, while he exploits of the first animals on film were sometimes inhumane and brutal. Sometimes, these portrayals were erroneous and led to Urban Legends, as depicted in one of the descriptions below.
While it is not workable to feature all animal stars in a single Hub, we;ll look at a few here. Hopefully, they will being back some fond memories for some readers and give a first-time look to other generations. I hope other Hubbers will fill in the history with Hubs featuring some of the other animal stars of yesterday and today.
The Young Star
- Francis (1950)
Directed by Arthur Lubin. With Donald O'Connor, Patricia Medina, Zasu Pitts. A Mule Wiser Than Many of the Humans. Visit IMDb for Photos, Showtimes, Cast, Crew, Reviews, Plot Summary, Comments, Discussions, Taglines, Trailers, Posters, Fan Sites
Francis on Film
Francis the Talking Mule
I have only seen a segment of one of the Francis the Talking Mule series of films that debuted after World War II, but I have talked with some folks that have seen them all and can provide a little information here. One thing I learned is that the animal starred in a series of comic books as well as films. Most of the films centered on US military life at the end of WWII and afterward.
Francis was the actual star of these films, with humans as sidekicks, except perhaps for the last production.
- FRANCIS (1949 - 1950) - This is all a little like Mr. Ed! On a WWII mission behind enemy lines in a part of Asia, soldier Peter (Donald O'Connor) is rescued by a talking mule named Francis.
- FRANCIS GOES TO THE RACES (1951)- Peter takes Francis home to a horse breeding form with him when his US Army service is over. Francis finds a long lost relative among the horses and saves the farm from bankruptcy.
- FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT (1952) - Peter goes to West Point, and stops radical saboteurs from destroying a nuclear plant with the help of Francis.
- FRANCIS COVERS THE BIG TOWN (1953) - Peter becomes a newsman, but Francis comes up with the stories.
- FRANCIS JOINS THE WACs (1954)- Peter returns to the military in the Women's Army Corps by mistake! HE takes Francis, of course.
- FRANCIS IN THE NAVY (1955) - Peter and Francis join the US Navy. Clint Eastwood is also in this one.
- FRANCIS IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1956) - Francis makes some new friends in Mickey Rooney (David Prescott) and some other stars. This is in the same league as Dracula Meets Abbot and Costello or the Three Stooges (I think he may have met both.). A different man voices the mule in this film from the first six (done by Chill Wills) and no additional films were made in the series.
The Lemming, an Artic Animal Star
- White Wilderness
- Water Birds
- Beaver Valley
- Prowlers of the Everglades
- Mysteries of the Deep
- Wonders of the Water Worlds
- The Crisler Story
...The Real Lemmings
The Walt Disney company created a documentary film in 1958 called White Wilderness. Int he 1960s, the film was rebroadcast on the Wonderful World of Disney Sunday night television show on ABC.
Filmed in the Province of Alberta, Canada; the location had no lemmings and no sea.
The lemmings, which are in fact, Artic animals, were brought in by the Disney crews from elsewhere, probably Inuits in the farther North. Staged migration scenes were filmed with a few dozen animals and then they were shipped to a river, where they were herded over a cliff whiel cameras rolled.
In this partially accurate documentary, the Disney film crew provoked or persuaded a large group of lemmings to run off a cliff into the sea, staging what looked like a mass suicide that controlled population growth each year. The truth is that, during times when operpopulation depletes local recources, lemmings migrate as other animals and humans do and some of the lemmings fall off cliffs or drown in bodies of water. Some animals die on the journey of migration of any species every year. The film crew needed it to happen on demand, perhaps to save time and to create amore powerful impact on viewers.
Cheeta the Chimpanzee
Cheeta the chimpanzee may come to mind first as an animal film star, especially to those that have enjoyed Tarzan films of the 1930s. Sidekick animal stars like Cheetah may have provided and added impetus to the Disney company's use of animal companions in many of their children's films.
The first chimp to play Cheeta was Jiggs, who was followed by a long line of other chimpanzees. However, one website maintains that the original Cheeta played in all Tarzan films (see link below) and is still alive today - doing art projects and seeking a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- Go Cheeta
Cheeta the Chimp and a quest for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some sources criticize claims on this site and feel that this is not the original Cheeta.
- C.H.E.E.T.A. Primate Sanctuary
The C.H.E.E.T.A. Primate Sanctuary is a charity that provides enriching lifelong social care and rehabilitation for primates.
The Horse Golden Cloud
This name sounds like a Native American pony, doesn't it? Instead, it belongs to a Golden Palomino that you might recognize and can likely still see today.
This famous horse lived from 1938 - 1965 and was then mounted (via professional taxidermy) and placed into a large glass showcase by his owner.
Golden Cloud first appeared in film The Adventures of Robin Hood, but became famous for his acting in Under Western Stars back in 1938. He became known as perhaps the smartest horse in film. He was chosen personally by Roy Rogers to become his Trigger in 1938. Rogers, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio; purchased the horse for about $2,500 in those days and was never sorry he did. He and his wife, Dale Evans, even when they came out onto the stage in wheelchairs on TV to sing and talk on TBN telecasts in their last years, they spoke of Trigger.
Unfortunately, the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum moved from their home to Branson, Missouri and then closed in December, 2009. However, you can still visit the website at the link. Check out Memory Lane for pictures of Trigger and look at links for Roy Rogers Jr. and his career.
Terry the Cairn Terrier (1933 - 1944)
Terry acted some time before any of the Lassies began to act. Terry first appeared on screen in 1934 in Ready to Love and with Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes.
She continued to act, but all always be most rememberd for her role as Toto in MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939). She reportedly earned over $100 per week and out-earend several human actors on the project. In her 11-year life, she made 13 movies.