Mister Ed is an American television situation comedy that first aired in syndication on January 5, 1961 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, occurring before the premiere of Batman, five years later.
The stars of the show are Mister Ed, an intelligent palomino American Saddlebred who could talk ("played" by gelding Bamboo Harvester and voiced by Allan Lane), and his owner, architect Wilbur Post (portrayed by Alan Young). Much of the program's humor stemmed from the fact Mister Ed would speak only to Wilbur. According to the show's producer, Arthur Lubin, Young was chosen because "he seemed like a guy a horse would talk to." Lubin, a friend of Mae West, scored a coup by persuading the screen icon to guest star in one episode.
The show was derived from the short story Ed Takes the Pledge
by Walter R. Brooks
, who 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. Although the Francis films preceded the television version of Mr. Ed, Brooks' Mr. Ed books were published before the existence of Francis the Talking Mule.
Mister Ed 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 coach 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" at the request of the horse.
By the time Mister Ed reached the age of 19 he was suffering from a broken leg and a variety of health problems, and in 1970 he was quietly put down with no publicity. However, in an interview on Los Angeles station KECT's program "Life and Times", Alan Young stated that Mr. Ed died from an inadvertent tranquilizer administered while he was "in retirement" in a stable in Burbank, California.
A horse that died in Oklahoma in 1979 (widely reported to have been Mister Ed, including sardonic comments on Saturday Night Live's faux news segment) was in fact an animal that once posed as Ed for publicity photos used by the production company.
The other main characters in the show were Wilbur's tolerant wife Carol (Connie Hines
) and their neighbors the Addisons (Larry Keating
and Edna Skinner
) until 1963 (upon Larry Keating's death that year) and then the Kirkwoods (Leon Ames
and Florence MacMichael
For the final season, the show focused strictly on the home life of the Posts, which was made more interesting with Carol's father moving in at the beginning of the season.
The theme song was written by the songwriting team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and sung, for the show, by Livingston. According to an urban legend
when the theme song for Mister Ed was played backwards
the words "Someone sung the song for Satan
" and "the source is the devil
" are clearly heard. These phrases are heard by some listeners due to the phenomenon called phonetic reversal
The series was sponsored from 1961 to 1963 by Studebaker-Packard Corporation/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. The Addison's 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 Nash.
In 2004, a remake was planned for the FOX
network, with Sherman Hemsley
as the voice of Mister Ed, David Alan Basche
as Wilbur, and Sherilyn Fenn
as Carol. 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.
The peanut butter legend
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 admitted in 2004 that he had started that story himself, and explaining the actual method used. Alan Young, in an interview 7th April 2007 on radio station 3AW
, Melbourne, Australia, again admitted that a loose piece of Nylon was inserted under Mr. Ed's lip which the horse attempted to remove on his trainers cue. Mr. Ed was so well trained that the insert would be ignored until the required cue.
Careful examination of Mister Ed footage shows indisputable evidence that the "marionette theory" (i.e., Ed's handler pulled strings to make him talk) was at work at least some of the time. Excerpts exist from a few episodes where the lighting and camera angle reveal a visible nylon "bit" being pulled for each word Ed spoke. Alan Young denied this occurred in the radio interview mentioned in the above paragraph. Some may claim a nylon bit was needed in order to have Ed turn his head or perform some other movement without his trainer having to be in the camera shot, but the evidence is clear that the bit was also used when Ed was standing still and merely had to talk. Young finally admitted during his interview for the Archive of American Television that a string was pulled to make Ed talk, noting that "this is for the Archive, right?" before explaining that he'd used the peanut butter fable for years in radio interviews instead of telling the truth.
... Mister Ed
... Wilbur Post
... Carol Post
... Roger Addison
... Kay Addison
... Gordon Kirkwood
Florence MacMichael ... Winnie Kirkwood
Recent work has been done by a master builder in Oklahoma to create a community built around the supposed final resting place (although that fact is disputable) of Mr. Ed. It is intended to be themed to the style of the show and its period.
Appearances in other media
- In the American version of Tekkaman Blade, superhero Blade/Slade is given a flying, talking robot named Pegas after Pegasus, the flying horse of greek myth that carried the hero Bellerophon on its back. When Pegas transforms into a vehicle, Blade/Slade rides it and says, "Its a good thing you fly as well as you talk. They could have called you Mr. Ed."
- In the 1989 movie UHF, one of the sections with Philo has the theme playing in the background.
- Histeria! featured a recurring character in the form of a talking horse who spoke very much like Mr. Ed. One episode, "20th Century Presidents", also a theme song parodying that of Mr. Ed.
- The Beastie Boys use a sample of Mr. Ed's voice in one of their songs.
- In the first Dr. Dolittle movie with Eddie Murphy, some men are watching Mr. Ed and talking about the peanut butter myth.
- Mister Ed was referenced in Mortal Kombat Annihilation as Jax says "I'll Take on Mister Ed" refering to Montaro.
MGM Home Entertainment
released two Best-of
collections of Mister Ed
in Region 1
. Volume 1 (released January 13
) contains 21 episodes and Volume 2 (released March 8
contains 20 episodes. Due to poor sales, it is unknown if any more volumes will be released.
MGM also released a single-disc released 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"
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.