Mister Ed - Talking golden palomino horse on the
sitcom MISTER ED/SYN/CBS/1961-66.
Upon moving into his new home, architect Wilbur Post (Alan Young) and his new
wife, Carol (Connie Hines) discovered a horse left by the previous owners in the
backyard stable. To Wilbur's surprise, the horse began to talk.
Mister Ed (what Wilbur named the horse) explained he could always talk but
until then he just hadn't felt like speaking. However, Ed would only talk with
Wilbur. When anyone else walked into the stable the horse quickly turned silent.
Wilbur first heard Ed speak on the episode "The First Meeting" circa January
1961, when he said "Oh, this is impossible. I don't believe it. Now, while I'm
looking right at you, say something! To which Ed replied "HOW NOW BROWN COW."
The only two instances when Ed talked to someone else were during the
episodes "Kiddy Park" when Ed talked to a boy at the kiddy park pony ride; and
on the episode "Ed the Zebra" when Ed, disguised as a zebra, tells a little boy
not to believe his scoutmaster's zoo lecture that zebras were smarter that
Some of the reasons why Mister Ed talked to Wilbur?:
||Because, inside, you're all horse.
||Because you love animals. Because you
||I got tired of talking to parrots, and you were
the next step up.
||Because you're the only one I like well enough
to talk to, Wilbur.
||I only talk to you and dumb animals.
When Mister Ed spoke the audience was actually listening to the gravelly voice
of Allan "Rocky" Lane, a well known B-western cowboy star whose first western
was the RKO film Law West of Tombstone (1939).
Because Rocky Lane wanted to keep his association with the series anonymous, the
credit line at the end of the program read "Mister Ed...Himself."
However, the deep voice heard at the end of the theme song saying "I am Mister
Ed" was songwriter Jay Livingston who both co-authored the theme song with Ray
Evans and sang the memorable lyrics "A horse is a horse, of course, of
Mister Ed was actually a horse named Bamboo
Harvester foaled in 1949 in El Monte, California. His parents were The Harvester
(Sire), a Saddlebred owned by Edna and Jim Fagan; and Zetna, (Dam) who was sired
by Antez, an Arabian imported from Poland. [per the Palomino Horse Association].
The talented Bamboo Harvester was able to open doors, untie knots, wave a flag,
answer the phone and write notes with a large pencil (Ed also wrote the memoir
Love and the Single Horse).
A look-alike stand-in named Punkin (or Pumpkin) was
always on hand but was only used twice during the whole series in episodes "TV
or Not TV" and "Ed the Hero."
Over the years, many theories have arisen hoping
to answer the burning question "How did they make Mister Ed talk?" Well,
producer Arthur Lubin ain't talking.
An article in the August 29, 1965 issue of
the New York Sunday News reported that Lubin "remained as close-mouthed about
the whole affair as though it were H-bomb plans he was protecting." There are
several theories as to how Lubin and others on the show made Ed's lips move:
"Peanut-Butter Theory" - Attributed to Alan Young that claims that a piece of
soft nylon covered with peanut-butter was shoved under Ed's lip and his attempts
to dislodged it caused the lip movement.
"Marionette Theory" - Claims that an invisible nylon fish-line tied to the horse
halter and the horse's lips was pulled to get the equine conversing.
"Shocking Theory" - Believes that Ed talked because his lips were zapped with
short bursts of electricity that irritated his mouth just enough to make his
lips move. But, since Lester "Les" Hilton, Ed's trainer was reported to be a
very gentle and attentive caretaker, this theory can be put to rest.
Some lesser theories included the lips were animated cartoons; Mister Ed was
actually two actors in a horse suit; and Wilbur Post was a ventriloquist and did
magical things with his hand.
However, years later, Alan Young revealed on a 2002 segment of "Whatever Happened To..." on the show ET WEEKEND, that the secret of Ed's moving lips "Wasn't peanut butter. It was a technique that Lester invented himself It was a soft piece of nylon thread he put under his lip and like peanut butter when you were a kid, he would try to get rid of it. But on cue, which was the difficut part...and he stopped on cue."
Mr. Ed got so used to moving his lips that one day as Alan Young rode Ed along a trail in Griffith Park with Lester Hilton (who rode Punkin) Les noticed that when Alan stopped talking Ed's lips began to move. As Alan Young concluded "They say horses are not smart, maybe they're right, but he was smart."
Another insight offered by Young on the program was:
"He (Ed) was fastidious with his bathroom habits. He would roll his eyes and then we knew he had to go, so we'd led him out and he went and he came back very satified. Which menat we had the sweetest smelling stage . It was lovely."
After the series ended, Mister Ed retired under the care
of Les Hilton. At the age of 19, Ed was afflicted with kidney problems and
arthritis which made it difficult for him to get up and down. And so, in 1968 it
was recommended that Bamboo Harvester, (a.k.a. "Mister Ed") be put to sleep.
death of Mister Ed was kept from the press at the time, because of the concern
that those children still watching the syndicated reruns of the program would
Allan "Rocky" Lane, the voice of Mister Ed, died from a bone
marrow disorder on October 27, 1973. And Les Hilton, Mister Ed's trainer, died
of pancreatic cancer in 1976.
Years later on February 28, 1979, a look-alike
palomino (owned by Clarence Tharp) which once posed for a Mister Ed publicity
shot, died in Oklahoma and was mistakenly reported to be the real Mister Ed.
July 1990, a local radio station collected money for a Mister Ed monument,
unawares that the real Mister Ed had died 11 years earlier. Flying in the face
of the truth, the radio station took the money and built a statue with a relief
of Ed looking out from his stall door.
When the cable channel NICK AT NITE revived the popularity of Mister Ed in the
1980s, they employed the services of a look-alike horse named Live Ed to travel
about the country visiting shopping malls and promoting the program.
The Mister Ed Fan Club, founded in 1975
by Jim Burnett, published a newsletter is called The Horse's Mouth.
TRIVIA NOTE: The MISTER ED series was conceived by Arthur Lubin, who directed
the Francis the Mule movies produced by Universal Pictures. The series was based
on twenty-eight short stories written by Walter Brooks about a talking horse
named Mister Ed.
In the original stories, Mister Ed recited Hamlet, spoke Latin,
had a fear of spies and drank until he got drunk. His owners Wilbur and Carlotta
Pope lived in Mount Kisco, New York; and Wilbur worked at the architectural firm
of Lamson, Camphire, Leatherbee & Wallet.
On May 21, 1997 an original set of Mr.
Ed's horseshoes, circa 1961 were placed on the auction block of Sotheby's
Entertainment Memorabilia auction for $8-10,000.
In a "Then & Now" interview
(People Weekly 7/17/95 p. 44) Alan Young recalled "Ed was in show business two
weeks when they changed his name and castrated him. Happens to many of us," he
In the rowdy film Hot to Trot (1988) Bob Goldthwait costarred with Don, the Talking Horse (voice of John Candy) who said
of Mister Ed "Look you'd move your lips too if some stagehand was shovin' a
carrot up your butt!"
See also -
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