"One of the most important jackasses in American television history...a definite cultural icon." -American Institute of Television
Life with Petunia (1956-1960)
A pet donkey named Petunia follows two muleskinners, Pork and Beanz, around the Wild West. Petunia could talk to the audience by using subtitles, but Pork and Beanz could only hear her bray. The two would get themselves into all sorts of wacky adventures resulting in catastrophes from which Petunia would save them. Petunia was famous for her line “Pork and Beanz is going to get canned!”
The show generated lots of merchandise during its initial run –from lunch boxes to Petunia dolls. The best selling item among girls was a straw hat like the one Petunia wore with a yellow sunflower and donkey ears; boys preferred the gray or blue muleskinner hats like the ones Pork and Beanz wore.
The show most people remember is the last episode in which Petunia drags Pork and Beanz into the wagon after they knock themselves out trying to get away from lit sticks of dynamite they thought were candles. Petunia then jumps into the back of the wagon, grabs the reins of the workhorse Theodore, and drives the buggy to the doctor’s office in Gold Nugget City. Memorable line from the episode: Doc: “I seen a horsefly, but by tarnation, Sheriff, I’ve never seen a donkey drive.”
Petunia as herself
Rock Boylan as Pork
Kenny Smith as Beanz
Theodore as himself
Winston Smith as Doc Johnson
Petunia’s Wagon Train (1960-1965)
Everyone’s favorite donkey is back –in Full Color! In this series, Petunia is a member of a wagon train going further west. She is accompanied by a cowgirl named Bessie and an Indian named Bumblin’ Bee. Bessie is the only person that can understand Petunia and together every week they save the wagon train and Bumblin’ Bee whenever trouble occurs. Hilarity always ensues!
According to television legend, the actor that played Bumblin’ Bee, the British actor Harrington Cross III, hated animals, especially donkeys, making it easy to play his character which had a love/hate relationship with Petunia. Bumblin’ Bee is famous for the line, “If I a choice, you’d be a pair of moccasins (or teepee or saddlebag or leather belt or whatever –it was changed every week)
Petunia as herself
Mary Alexander as Bessie
Harrington Cross III as Bumblin’ Bee
Mack Kennedy as Colonel Frederick Beauregard
When the series was cancelled in 1965, four movies were made to continue the franchise:
Son of Petunia, 1965
Bessie (played by Mary Alexander) must find a way to get Petunia to St. Louis to give birth to her colt; however, somebody wants to stuff her and put her in an Old West museum.
Brewster Kicks It Home, 1967
Petunia’s son, Brewster, must find his way home after accidentally getting off a train in Los Angeles. While traveling he meets Freddy (played by Mack Kennedy), a down on his luck veteran. During their adventures, Brewster and Freddy are hired to play for a local baseball team. Brewster helps the team to victory and becomes a star. He finds his way home traveling along with the baseball team.
(NOTE: This movie is set in the 1960s instead of the Wild West. The movies that follow after this will also be set in more modern times)
Brewster Kicks Across Europe, 1970
Brewster the donkey travels to Europe to play in baseball game and discovers relatives destined for the glue factory. He defeats, with the help of his friend Freddy (played by Jack Farnsworth*), the evil glue factory millionaire Sir Alfred Stickibunns (played by veteran Shakespearean actor Sir Charles Fenwick). He and Freddy help the donkeys find a home in a petting zoo in London. Cheerio!
*Mack Kennedy died in 1966 and was replaced by the younger Jack Farnsworth
Brewster Kicks Again!, 1973
Brewster meets a circus donkey named Lovey, and he and Freddy (Jack Farnsworth) must help her save the big top from a scheming corporation bent on closing down the Algernon Brother’s Family Circus.
Later in the seventies, a movie was made to try to bring the famous franchise back to television:
Son of Brewster (made for TV movie), 1976
Brewster the Donkey’s son, Algernon, saves a little town from being demolished and ultimate finds a quiet pasture for his entire family.
The reboot movie:
Three Donkeys (animated) 2016
Three donkeys (Petunia, Brewster, and Algernon) must save the world from the archvillian Zazu and her evil henchmen. Zazu wants to poison all the farms with a monster plant she has created in order to force everyone to buy food from her factories. It is up to the three donkeys with an orphan named Bess and a bumblebee sidekick named Bebe to stop the evil Zazu.