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Mister Ed

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Mister Ed
Mister Ed title, from a colorized print
Genre Sitcom
Created by Walter R. Brooks
Directed by Jus Addiss
Rodney Amateau
Arthur Lubin
John Rich
Ira Stewart
Alan Young
Starring Alan Young
Connie Hines
Voices of Allan "Rocky" Lane
Theme music composer Ray Evans
Jay Livingston
Opening theme "Mr. Ed" by Jay Livingston
Composer(s) Jack Cookerly
Dave Kahn
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 143
Executive producer(s) Al Simon
Producer(s) Arthur Lubin
Cinematography Archie R. Dalzell
Maury Gertsman
Running time 30 mins.
Production company(s) The Mister Ed Company
Distributor Filmways Television
Original channel Syndication (1961)
CBS (1961–1966)
Original run January 5, 1961 – February 6, 1966
Related shows Mister Ed (2004)

Mister Ed is an American television situation comedy produced by Filmways[1] that first aired in syndication from January 5 to July 2, 1961 and then on CBS from October 1, 1961 to February 6, 1966. Mister Ed was the first series ever to debut as a midseason replacement.

The stars of the show are Mister Ed, an intelligent palomino horse who could talk ("played" by gelding Bamboo Harvester and voiced by Allan Lane), and his owner, an eccentric and enormously klutzy architect named Wilbur Post (portrayed by Alan Young). Much of the program's humor stemmed from the fact Mister Ed would speak only to Wilbur, as well as Ed's notoriety as a troublemaker. According to the show's producer, Arthur Lubin, Young was chosen as the lead character because he "just seemed like the sort of guy a horse would talk to."[2] Lubin, a friend of Mae West, scored a coup by persuading the screen icon to guest star in one episode.

In the United States, reruns aired on Nick at Nite from March 3, 1986 to February 1, 1993.[3] Sister station TV Land also reran the show from 1996 to 1998 and again from 2003 to 2006. The series is currently broadcast every morning on This TV, along with sister series The Patty Duke Show.



The show was derived from short stories by Walter R. Brooks, including Ed Takes the Pledge. Brooks is otherwise known for the Freddy the Pig series of children's novels, which likewise feature talking animals who interact with humans.

The concept of the show was similar to Francis the Talking Mule, with the equine normally talking only to one person (Wilbur), and thus both helping and frustrating its owner.

Mister Ed

The first horse that played Mister Ed for the pilot episode was a chestnut gelding. However, the permanent equine star of the show was Bamboo Harvester (1949–1970), a crossbred gelding of American Saddlebred, Arabian and grade ancestry.

Mister Ed the horse was voiced by ex-B-movie cowboy star Allan "Rocky" Lane (speaking) and Sheldon Allman (singing, except his line in the theme song, which was sung by its composer, Jay Livingston).

Ed was voice-trained for the show by Les Hilton. Lane remained anonymous as the voice of Mister Ed, and the show's producers referred to him only as "an actor who prefers to remain nameless," though once the show became a hit, Lane campaigned the producers for credit, which he never received. The credits listed Mister Ed as playing "Himself"; however, his family tree name was Bamboo Harvester. Ed's stablemate, a quarter horse named Pumpkin, who was later to appear in the television series Green Acres, was also Ed's stunt double in the show.


By 1968, Bamboo Harvester was suffering from a variety of health problems. In 1970 he was euthanized with no publicity, and buried at Snodgrass Farm in Oklahoma.[4] However, a different version was given by Alan Young. Young wrote that he'd frequently visit his former "co-star" in retirement. He states that Mr. Ed died from an inadvertent tranquilizer administered while he was "in retirement" in a stable in Burbank, California where he lived with his trainer Lester Hilton. Young says Hilton was out of town visiting relatives and a temporary care giver might have seen Ed rolling on the ground, struggling to get up. Young said Ed was a heavy horse and he wasn't always strong enough to get back on his feet without struggling. The theory is the care giver thought the horse was in distress and administered a tranquilizer and for unknown reason, the horse died within hours. The remains were cremated and scattered by Hilton in the Los Angeles area at a spot known only to him.[5]

A different horse that died in Oklahoma in February 1979 was widely thought to be Bamboo Harvester, but this horse was in fact a horse that posed for the still pictures of "Mr. Ed" used by the production company for the show's press kits. After Bamboo Harvester's death in 1970, this horse was unofficially known as Mister Ed, which led to him being reported as such (including sardonic comments on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update) following his own death.[6]

Young said when the Oklahoma horse death story came out in 1979, he knew it wasn't the real Mr. Ed, but didn't have the heart to "shatter their illusions" that the horse being memorialized wasn't the real Mr. Ed. He believes it was a horse used for early publicity photos.[5]There are conflicting stories involving of the death of Bamboo Harvester, the horse that played Mr. Ed.

Other characters

The other main characters in the show were Wilbur's tolerant young wife, Carol (Connie Hines); and their friendly neighbors the Addisons, Roger (Larry Keating) and Kay (Edna Skinner) until 1963 (upon Larry Keating's death that year) and then the Kirkwoods, Gordon (Leon Ames) and Winnie (Florence MacMichael). In 1963, the child actor Darby Hinton, cast thereafter as Israel Boone on NBC's Daniel Boone, guest starred as Rocky in the episode "Getting Ed's Goat". Jack Albertson appeared occasionally from 1961 to 1963 as Kay Addison's older brother Paul Fenton.

For the final season, the show focused strictly on the home life of the Posts, which was made more interesting when Carol's grumpy and uptight father, Mr. Higgins (Barry Kelly), who appeared occasionally through the entire series, apparently moved in with Wilbur and Carol during the final episodes. Mr. Higgins loathed Wilbur since Wilbur's quirky eccentricity clashed with his own emotionless and uptight personality, and never stopped trying to persuade Carol to leave Wilbur, whom he referred to as a "kook" because of his klutziness.

Although Connie Hines retired from acting a few years after the show's cancellation in 1966, she and Alan Young made public appearances together.[7]

Theme song

The theme song was written by the songwriting team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and sung, for the show, by Livingston, who was not the first choice. Only the music was used to open the first six episodes, but when a professional singer could not be found, Livingston agreed to sing the lyrics, because the producers were so pleased with his vocals, and he was never replaced. [8]


The series was sponsored from 1961 to 1963 by Studebaker Corporation, a now-defunct American car manufacturer. Studebakers were featured prominently in the show during this period. The Posts are shown owning a 1962 Lark convertible, and the company used publicity shots featuring the Posts and Mister Ed with their product (various cast members also appeared in "integrated commercials" for Lark at the end of the program). The Addisons are shown owning a 1963 Avanti. Ford Motor Company provided the vehicles starting at the beginning of 1965. It is also interesting to note that, in the first episode ever aired, the Posts were driving a 1961 Studebaker Lark.


In 2004, a remake was planned for the Fox network, with Sherman Hemsley as the voice of Mister Ed, David Alan Basche as Wilbur, Sherilyn Fenn as Carol, and Sara Paxton. The pilot was filmed, but was not picked up by Fox. The show's writer and producer, Drake Sather, committed suicide shortly before the pilot's completion.

Making Ed "talk"

It is often said the crew was able to get Mister Ed to move his mouth by applying peanut butter to his gums in order for him to try to remove it by moving his lips. However, Alan Young said in 2004 that he had started the story himself.[9] In another interview, Young said, “Al Simon and Arthur Lubin, the producers, suggested we keep the method a secret because they thought kids would be disappointed if they found out the technical details of how it was done, so I made up the peanut butter story, and everyone bought it. It was initially done by putting a piece of nylon thread in his mouth. But Ed actually learned to move his lips on cue when the trainer touched his hoof. In fact, he soon learned to do it when I stopped talking during a scene! Ed was very smart.”[10]

Others argued that examination of Mister Ed footage shows Ed's handler pulling strings to make him talk, and that this method was at work at least some of the time. Young later said during an interview for the Archive of American Television that a nylon string was tied to the halter and the loose end inserted under his lip to make Ed talk, saying that he had used the peanut butter fable for years in radio interviews instead of telling the truth. The loose thread can be seen tied to the halter, and it is clearly not taut as it would be if it were being pulled. Young also states in the AAT interview that after the first season, Ed didn't need the nylon – Alan and trainer Les were out riding one day and Les started laughing, telling Alan to look at Ed, who was moving his lips every time they stopped talking, as if attempting to join in the conversation. This difference is visible when comparing first season episodes to later ones, as it is clear that early on he's working the irritating string out, sometimes working his tongue in the attempt too, and later on he tends to only move his upper lip, and appears to watch Alan Young closely, waiting for him to finish his lines before twitching his lip.

Young added in the Archive interview that Ed saw the trainer as the disciplinarian, or father figure, and when scolded for missing a cue, would go to Alan for comfort, like a mother figure, which Les said was a good thing.[11]


Main cast:
Allan Lane (voice only) ... Mister Ed
Alan Young ... Wilbur Post
Connie Hines ... Carol Post

Supporting Cast:
Larry Keating ... Roger Addison (1961–1963); Seasons 1–3
Edna Skinner ... Kay Addison (1961–1963); Seasons 1–4
Leon Ames ... Gordon Kirkwood (1963–1965); Seasons 4–5
Florence MacMichael ... Winnie Kirkwood (1963–1965); Seasons 4–5
Jack Albertson ... Paul Fenton (occasionally 1961–1963); Seasons 2–4
Barry Kelly ... Carol's Father, Mr. Higgins (occasionally 1962–1966)

Housing development

In 2007 it was reported that a builder intended to create a community near Tahlequah, Oklahoma built around the supposed final resting place (although that fact is disputable) of Mister Ed. It is intended to be themed to the style of the show and its period.[6]

Appearances in other media

  • Histeria! featured a recurring character in the form of a talking horse who spoke very much like Mister Ed. One episode, "20th Century Presidents", also a theme song parodying that of Mister Ed.
  • The Beastie Boys use a sample of Mister Ed's voice in their song Time To Get Ill from the album Licensed to Ill.
  • The song "Mr. Klaw" by They Might Be Giants features lyrics based on those of the show's theme.
  • "Now That I Am Dead" by French Frith Kaiser Thompson features a "Mister Ed" impersonation on the line "I am Mister Dead."
  • British sketch comedy show Harry Enfield's Television Programme featured a Grotesque character called Mister Dead, a talking human corpse who travels around with his living friend and often helps him get out of troublesome situations, such as in one sketch where he avoids a speeding ticket by pretending to rush Mister Dead to the mortuary.
  • A Tribute Music CD called Mister Ed Unplugged was released, featuring new recordings of the "Theme From Mister Ed" and longer versions of "The Pretty Little Filly" and "Empty Feedbag Blues", which were both written by the late Sheldon Allman, who was also the original singing voice of Mister Ed.
  • Dell Comics published Mister Ed in Four Color # 1295[12]
  • In the show Dinosaurs (TV series), one of Earl Sinclair's favorite show is "Mister Ugh", a parody of Mister Ed featuring a caveman instead of a horse.


DVD releases

MGM Home Entertainment released two Best-of collections of Mister Ed on DVD in Region 1. Volume 1 (released January 13, 2004) contains 21 episodes and Volume 2 (released March 8, 2005) contains 20 episodes. Due to poor sales, further volumes were not released.

MGM also released a single-disc release entitled Mister Ed's Barnyard Favorites on July 26, 2005 which contains the first eight episodes featured on Volume One.

Judging by the pattern of other CBS and Filmways programs of the era, it is possible that some episodes from the early seasons may have had their copyrights lapsed, and thus have fallen in the public domain. The Internet Archive (archive.org) has the episode entitled "Ed the Beneficiary".

On June 18, 2009, Shout! Factory announced that they had acquired the rights to release Mister Ed on DVD. They have subsequently released the first three seasons on DVD in Region 1, as of June 1, 2010.[13]

An early review of the 1st season DVD by Paul Mavis states that most of the episodes are the full-length versions; however eight of them are the edited versions. [14]

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season One/The Complete First Season


October 6, 2009
The Complete Second Season


February 2, 2010
The Complete Third Season


June 1, 2010
The Complete Fourth Season


The Complete Fifth Season


The Complete Sixth Season



See also

Other films with talking horses include Hot to Trot (1988) and Ready to Run (2002). The names of the talking horses were Don and Thunder Jam (TJ) respectively.


  1. The New York Times Encyclopedia of Television by Les Brown (Times Books, a division of Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Company, Inc., 1977), ISBN 0-8129-0721-3, p. 277
  2. Trivia for Mr. Ed (1961), IMDB. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  3. Nick at Nite Log: 1985–present
  4. "Find a Grave". Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1551. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Young, Alan. "Mr. Ed and Me" 1994,St. Martins Press, New York, ISBN 0-312-11852-X, Pgs. 181-3
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gene Curtis, "Only in Oklahoma: The famous Mister Ed still keeps 'em talking", Tulsa World, October 5, 2007.
  7. "Photo Gallery". Mister-ed.tv. http://www.mister-ed.tv/Photo%20Gallery.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  8. Mister Ed's CyberStable-Mister Ed-Theme Song
  9. John Clark (2004-01-04). "Interview with Alan Young". Sfgate.com. http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/01/04/PKG0D3QHMK1.DTL. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  10. http://www.mydailyfind.com/features/mister-eds-alan-young-talks-about-the-talking-horse-and-hollywood-lore.html
  11. ""archive of american television interview with alan young" – Google Videos". Video.google.com. http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=%22archive+of+american+television+interview+with+alan+young%22&num=10&so=2&start=0. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  12. http://www.comicvine.com/four-color-/37-90288/
  13. http://tvshowsondvd.com/news/Mister-Ed-Season-3/13359
  14. "Mister Ed: The Complete First Season : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Dvdtalk.com. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/39006/mister-ed-the-complete-first-season/. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 

External links


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