FRANCIS GOES TO THE RACES (1951)
Article #1334 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-8-2004
Posting Date: 4-7-2005
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Featuring Donald O’Connor, Piper Laurie, Cecil Kellaway
Peter Stirling and Francis the talking mule become involved with horse races and gamblers.
I quite liked the first movie in the series (FRANCIS), but I was only a few minutes into this one before I felt that the bloom was off the rose. What happened? I can think of two main problems. The wartime setting of the first movie set the stakes rather high; the information given to the main character by the talking mule was vital to national security, and so it required that he act on it. Unfortunately, being a member of the military, he was often forced to reveal his sources, and this would get him into the trouble. We ended up feeling for the guy and relating to his frustration. Here, the stakes are significantly lower, and the main character gets into his scrapes not so much through circumstance but more due to his own stupidity, and this isn’t really as satisfying. Furthermore, the movie doesn’t really extend or explore further the comic premise of a talking mule, so most of the scenes are repeats of situations from the earlier movie (Stirling tries to convince someone that Francis can talk, but the mule won’t talk in front of them; two people are with the mule, and when he talks, one person thinks the other person made the comment, etc.). Granted, there’s only so much you can do with the premise of a talking mule, and unless subsequent movies find more to do with the idea, there should be no need for anyone to see more than one movie in the series. Even Cecil Kellaway and Jesse White aren’t given much to do here.