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Mister Ed - Talking golden palomino horse on the sitcom MISTER ED/SYN/CBS/1961-66.

Alan Young's Autobiography about his days on the Mister Ed TV Series

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 horses.

Some of the reasons why Mister Ed talked to Wilbur?:

1. Because, inside, you're all horse.
2. Because you love animals. Because you trust them.
3. I got tired of talking to parrots, and you were the next step up.
4. Because you're the only one I like well enough to talk to, Wilbur.
5. 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 course..."

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:

Wilbur Post & Mr. Ed - TV Guide

"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.

The 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 become upset.

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.

In 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.

Mr. Ed the Talking Horse - Dell Comic

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 chuckled."

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 - VULNERABILITIES: "Mister Ed's Phobias"

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