Arthur Lubin, a onetime stage actor who went on to direct such classic pictures as "Phantom of the Opera" but who always lamented that he would instead be remembered for a series of films featuring a talking mule, is dead.
Lubin had worked with stars ranging from comics Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to John Wayne to Nelson Eddy and Alan Young, owner and soul mate of television's "Mr. Ed."
He had been in a nursing home since suffering a mild stroke in December but took a turn for the worse Thursday night and was taken to Glendale Adventist Hospital, where he died, friend Critt Davis said.
Lubin's age was given as 94 by the nursing home, but Davis said Lubin was really 96 and lied about it because "this is Hollywood."
Lubin started out as a local stage and film actor in the 1920s, then went on to direct more than 60 films.
His work ranged from 1943's "The Phantom of the Opera," starring Eddy, Susanna Foster and Claude Rains as the phantom, to escapist fare such as "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves" (1944), "The Spider Woman Strikes Back" (1946) and "Impact" (1949).
In the 1950s, Lubin directed six of the seven "Francis the Talking Mule" movies, precursors to the half-hour sitcom "Mr. Ed," which he also produced.
The TV comedy--in which Frances was converted to a horse rather than a mule while also undergoing a name change--starred Wilbur Post, an architect who flees the big city to discover nature and finds that the palomino who occupies his new barn can talk but refuses to speak to anyone but him.
The horse explained that Wilbur was the only human being he had ever met who was worth talking to.
With Young as Post and Western star Rocky Lane providing the horse's voice, the show began in syndication in 1961 and then ran for five seasons on CBS (1961-65). It was one of the few series to start in syndication and then be picked up by a network.
Lubin's work with Wayne included "California Straight Ahead" and "I Cover the War," both in 1937. His movies with Abbott and Costello included "Buck Privates" and "In the Navy," both in 1941.