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Donald O’Connor first appeared in films in 1937, and appeared in a number of Paramount productions, inclusive of Beau Geste (1939), before moving to Universal in 1942.

Always a delightful musical performer, he appeared in a non-musical, which was a turning point in his career –

Francis the Talking Mule, directed by Arthur Rubin, and released early in 1950. While Francis was actually a mule, few knew at the time that he really didn’t speak. It was all Hollywood trickery. His voice supplied by Chill Wills.

Francis was followed by Francis Goes to the Races in 1951, and Goes to West Point in 1952, the same year that Mr. O’Connor appeared in a Technicolor musical over at M-G-M, and continued there for I Love Melvin, before returning to Universal in 1953 for Francis Covers the Big Town.

While Mr. O’Connor moved about a bit giving stellar performances at Fox (There’s No Business Like Show Business, nd Call Me Madam – 1953-54), he was back for more Francis in 1954 for Joins the WACS and 1955 for Francis in the Navy.

The final film in the Francis series came in 1956 – Francis in the Haunted House, with Mickey Rooney taking over the human side of the duo. Chill Wills was replaced by Paul Frees.

Before anyone makes note of the fact that films about talking mules sounds like less than an event, it’s rumored that the series kept Universal in the black for a number of years, as it was a very popular series.

It remains so today, especially for young children, who can get away from the animated world and luxuriate in a bit of good natured comedy.

Kino is offering the series as part of their Universal deal, which is currently available for $80 on preorder for the seven films, plus commentaries.

The films are short and b/w. The first four films are 1.37. The fifth and sixth are 2.00, and the seventh, at 1.85, uses all of the real estate, so they fit comfortably on three discs, and all look just fine.

Image – 4.25 – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Works up-rezzed to 4k – Beautifully

Upgrade from DVD – Yes

Recommended

RAH
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Published by

Robert Harris

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lark144

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mark gross
I loved these when I was a child. Not sure how I feel about them now. I don't know that I can re-enter that state of innocence, where I was on the edge of my seat, hoping against hope it would turn out all right, for Donald O'Connor and Francis and even Chill Wills, whose voice I recognized, and just possibly, I would win the ticket raffle and get a prize after the feature. I did once, a yoyo, which immediately fell apart. But I'm happy to hear that the films look good.
 

Mark-P

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The films are short, and all except the final are 1.37, so they fit comfortably on three discs, and all look just fine.
Wait, are you saying only the 1956 title is widescreen? The 1954 and 1955 are open-matte? Wonder if these will garner the same level of outrage as Summertime did? :D
 

Robert Harris

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Wait, are you saying only the 1956 title is widescreen? The 1954 and 1955 are open-matte? Wonder if these will garner the same level of outrage as Summertime did? :D
Negative. Thank you.

An entire line was left out.

The first four films are 1.37. The fifth and sixth are 2.00, and the seventh, at 1.85, uses all of the real estate.
 

Kent K H

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I received a copy of Francis in the Navy on VHS as a kid in the 80s. I enjoyed it, but did feel like I was missing something to explain why it's important that there are two Donald O'Connors. Maybe if I'd seen the rest of them, I'd have gotten a bigger kick out of it. I did, even then, recognize Clint Eastwood in one of his early roles.
 

Robert Harris

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I was working at the Oklahoma City branch of Universal Film Exchange when most of these were released. I haven't anything profound to say except they were BIG hits in that part of the country.
And elsewhere! Always a pleasure to hear from you, Mr. May. Hope all is well.
 

dana martin

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Thank you for the great write-up, and not to just wait anybody from your recommendation but if they go to the KINO site it's even half of what it is it Amazon just throwing it out there
 
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