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Francis the Talking Mule

Updated on November 20, 2014
VladimirCat profile image

Vladimir is a former champion ratter (retired). His hobbies are bushwalking, birdwatching and nature studies

Francis was the best mule ever

Francis, late of the 123rd Mule Detachment, Serial Number M52519, was the star of seven movie comedies in the 1950s.

In the series of films, Francis teams up with a soldier, Peter Stirling, a pleasant young man full of cheerfulness and stout morals, although no intellectual giant.

Donald O'Connor received top billing as Peter, but the true star was, naturally, Francis.

Francis and Peter

Donald O' Connor

Donald was known for his singing and dancing roles but no one would have heard of him if he hadn't landed the role as Peter Stirling, the hapless GI.

In 1949, O'Connor co-starred alongside Francis. The film was a huge success for both of them.

However, his musical career was constantly interrupted by his making one Francis film a year until 1955. It was because of Francis that O'Connor missed out on playing Bing Crosby's companion in White Christmas. O'Connor was unavailable because he contracted an illness transmitted by the mule, and was replaced in the film by Danny Kaye.

Awards for Francis

In 1950. Francis was the very first recipient of the American Humane Association Annual Patsy Award (1st place), the award given to the animals shown in motion pictures for an outstanding performance

Francis gives Peter some advice in the Jungle

Francis was really Molly

The Secret of Francis

The fact of Francis talking is the cause of many hijinks and shenanigans wrapped around some serious business such as spies, combat manoeuvres and murder.

In all these films, it's pretty much of a secret that Francis can talk.

But Francis had a bigger secret. He was really Molly, a mule with her first role in one of the Ma and Pa Kettle films.

Francis, 1950

This debut of the Francis series co-stars Patricia Medina, and the United States Army.

While on a mission behind enemy lines in Burma, G.I. Peter Stirling is rescued by Francis.

Peter is placed in a padded cell when he insists that his four-legged pal speaks.

Although Francis stubbornly refuses to talk to outsiders, the pair are recognised for their heroic deeds.

Francis goes to the Races (1951)

Peter goes back to his home town after getting out of the army with Francis.

The pair stay at.a horse breeding ranch where Peter is smitten by the owner's granddaughter (Piper Laurie).

Cecil Kellaway and Jesse White also appear with Francis.

Francis goes to West Point (1952)

Francis and Peter put a stop to saboteurs at a nuclear plant.

Peter is rewarded by being appointed to Officer Training College at West Point and he takes Francis along with him.

The new cadet brings Francis along to the Army-Navy football game.

This comedy also stars Lori Nelson and appearances by David Janssen and Leonard Nimoy.

Mules in the Military

Because mules are hardier and surer of foot than horses, they played an integral role in the U. S. Army's logistical operations.

During World War I, over 571,000 horses and mules were processed by the Army for use in Europe; (more than 68,000 were killed in the course of action). .

Though they were used in smaller numbers during World War II, mules still played a valuable role. Because of the terrain, mules were widely used in Army campaigns in Italy and Burma.

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© 2010 Vladimir

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    • MassmannPLUS profile image

      MassmannPLUS 7 years ago

      Very interesting. Haven't heard of Francis before. Reminds me of Mr. Ed.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      Very clever. I remember watching Francis reruns on tv when I was a kid and had completely forgotten about him until I ran across your lens. What a treats.