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Mr. Ed

Mister Ed
Colorized Mister Ed title
Genre Sitcom
Created by Walter R. Brooks
Directed by
Voices of Allan "Rocky" Lane
Theme music composer
Opening theme "Mister Ed" by Jay Livingston
  • Raoul Krushaar
  • Jack Cookerly
  • Marlin Skiles
  • Dave Kahn
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 143 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Al Simon
Producer(s) Arthur Lubin
Running time 30 mins.
Production companies The Mister Ed Company
Original channel
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. The show's title character is a fictional talking horse, originally appearing in short stories by Walter R. Brooks.

The stars of the show were Mister Ed, a palomino horse who could "talk", played by gelding Bamboo Harvester and voiced by former Western star Allan Lane (who went uncredited for the entire length of the series), and his owner, an eccentric and enormously klutzy, yet friendly, architect named Wilbur Post (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. Other running jokes centered on Wilbur's character being a huge klutz and inadvertently causing harm to himself or others. 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][3]

In the United States, reruns aired on Nick at Nite from March 3, 1986, to February 1, 1993.[4] Sister station TV Land also reran the show from 1996–98 and again from 2003-06. The series is currently broadcast every morning on This TV, along with Highway Patrol, and The Patty Duke Show. It is also currently broadcast on Hallmark Movie Channel. As of January 1, 2011, the first two seasons of the show are available on Hulu.[5]


The show was derived from a series of short stories by Walter R. Brooks, which began with The Talking Horse in the September 18, 1937, issue of Liberty.[6] Brooks is otherwise known for the Freddy the Pig series of children's novels, which likewise feature talking animals who interact with humans. Lubin's secretary, Sonia Chernus, is credited as having developed the format for television, by having introduced the Brooks stories to Lubin himself.

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. The Francis movies were directed by Arthur Lubin, who performed the same duty on Mister Ed.[3] The show had some regular writers such as William Davenport, Lou Derman, Larry Rhine and Ben Starr. The series was restricted in setting, but often quite amusing.


Main cast
Supporting cast
  • Larry Keating as Roger Addison (1961–63); Seasons 1–3
  • Edna Skinner as Kay Addison (1961–63); Seasons 1–4
  • Leon Ames as Gordon Kirkwood (1963–65); Seasons 4–5
  • Florence MacMichael as Winnie Kirkwood (1963–65); Seasons 4–5
  • Jack Albertson as Paul Fenton (occasionally 1961–63); Seasons 2–4
  • Barry Kelley as Carol's Father, Mr. Higgins (occasionally 1962–65, recurring 1965-66)

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 (1949–70), 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 quarterhorse named Pumpkin, who was later to appear in the television series Green Acres, was also Ed's stunt double in the show.

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.[7] 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."[8]

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 (AAT) 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 did not 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 is 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.[9]


There are conflicting stories involving of the death of Bamboo Harvester, the horse that played Mister Ed. 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, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.[10] Alan Young told a different story, saying he had frequently visited Harvester in retirement. He states that Bamboo Harvester died from an inadvertent tranquilizer administered while he was in a stable on Sparks Street 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 Bamboo Harvester rolling on the ground, struggling to get up. Young said Harvester was a heavy horse and he was not always strong enough to get back on his feet without struggling. The theory is the caregiver thought the horse was in distress and administered a tranquilizer and, for unknown reasons, 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.[11]

A different horse who 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 Mister Ed used by the production company for the show's press kits. After Bamboo Harvester's death in 1970 from kidney disease, 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.[12]

Young said that when the Oklahoma horse death story came out in 1979, he knew it was not the real Mister Ed, but did not have the heart to "shatter their illusions" that the horse being memorialized was not the real Mister Ed. He believes it was the horse used for early publicity photos.[11]

Other characters

The other main character throughout the series was Wilbur's tolerant (to a point) young wife, Carol (Connie Hines). The Posts also had two sets of neighbors, to whom Ed delighted in making Wilbur appear as eccentric as possible. They included the Addisons, Roger (Larry Keating) and his wife Kay (Edna Skinner), who both appeared from the pilot episode until Keating's untimely death from leukemia in 1963; thereafter, Skinner continued appearing as Kay alone, without mention of Roger's absence, until the neighbors were recast. During this period her brother, Paul Fenton (Jack Albertson), who had made occasional appearances before, appeared with her (Jack Albertson was also billed as a cast member in the opening during these episodes). In the "official" pilot episode — two were filmed because the horse in the first pilot (the one where Wilbur and Carol first move into their new home and meet Mr. Ed) was unruly and difficult to work with — Roger caught Wilbur and Ed "conversing" and realized that Mister Ed could talk, but since Ed would not speak to anyone else and because Roger was a true skeptic, Wilbur defused the potential calamity by sufficiently convincing Addison that he was a ventriloquist and could "throw" Mister Ed's voice.

Following the Addisons, the Posts' new neighbors were Col. Gordon Kirkwood, USAF (Ret.), portrayed by Leon Ames, Wilbur's former commanding officer, and his wife Winnie (Florence MacMichael). They appeared on the series from 1963-65. In 1963, 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." Mae West and Clint Eastwood also appeared in different episodes as themselves.

Ed's ability to talk was never explained or, indeed, even much contemplated on the show. In the first episode, when Wilbur expressed an inability to understand the situation, Ed offered the show's only remark on the subject: "Don't try. It's bigger than both of us!"

For the final season, the Kirkwoods were phased out, while Carol's grumpy and uptight father, Mr. Higgins (Barry Kelley), who appeared occasionally throughout the entire series, apparently moved in with Wilbur and Carol during the final episodes. Mr. Higgins loathed Wilbur since Wilbur's quirky eccentricity always clashed with his own emotionless and uptight personality. Carol's father never stopped trying to persuade her to divorce Wilbur, who he often referred to as a "kook" because of Wilbur's clumsiness. Alan Young performed double-duty during the final season of the series, also directing nearly all episodes.

Although Connie Hines retired from acting several years after the show's cancellation in 1966, she and Alan Young made public appearances together.[13]


Theme song

The theme song was written by the songwriting team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and sung by Livingston. However, they took a theme of the German Romantic era composer Emile Waldteufel as the basis of their song ... After using only the music to open the first seven episodes, a decision was made to replace the instrumental-only version with one containing the lyrics. Livingston agreed to sing it himself, at least until a professional singer could be found; however, the producers liked the songwriter's vocals and kept them on the broadcast.[14]

A joke/controversy concerning the theme song has existed since at least the 1980s: that the tune contains "satanic messages" if played in reverse. This YouTube video [15] suggests that some portions reverse to "sing this song for Satan" and "Satan is the singer". Over the years, many radio stations have kept this rumor alive, mostly as a parody of the whole "backmasking" controversy.


The series was sponsored from 1961-63 by Studebaker-Packard Corporation and Studebaker Corporation, an American car manufacturer which stopped manufacturing cars in the United States in 1964 and its Canadian unit stopped producing cars in 1966, but that company survives today in a different field as Studebaker-Worthington Leasing Company.[16] 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.

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.

Shout! Factory announced in June 2009 that they had acquired the rights to release Mister Ed on DVD, and subsequently released the first five seasons on DVD in Region 1 in the U.S. Notably, Seasons 4 and 5 are not available outside of the continental U.S.

Syndicated versions of eight episodes were utilized for Season One DVD release. All other DVD releases contain unedited, full-length versions.[17]

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season One/The Complete First Season 26 October 6, 2009
The Complete Second Season 26 February 2, 2010
The Complete Third Season 26 June 1, 2010
The Complete Fourth Season♦ 26 November 16, 2010[18]
The Complete Fifth Season♦ 26 June 21, 2011[19]
The Complete Sixth Season 13 TBA

♦- Shout! Factory select title, sold exclusively through Shout's online store


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.


A racehorse named after the character in the television show took part in the 1994 Grand National steeplechase at Aintree, England, but did not complete the course.

In 2007, it was reported that a housing developer intended to create a community near Tahlequah, Oklahoma built around the supposed final resting place of Mister Ed. It is intended to be themed to the style of the show and its period.[12]


In 2012, Waterman Entertainment announced they were developing a new feature film based on Mister Ed.[20]

Popular culture

  • Histeria! featured a recurring character in the form of a talking horse who spoke like Mister Ed: in the episode "20th Century Presidents," a parody of the theme song is featured.
  • The Beastie Boys use a sample of Mister Ed's voice in their song "Time To Get Ill" from the 1987 album Licensed to Ill.
  • The song "Mr. Klaw" by They Might Be Giants features lyrics based on those of the show's theme. The song appeared on the album Miscellaneous T.[21]
  • "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.
  • In the episode of the same name of Mr. Show, David Cross finds a "talking junkie named Mister Junkie," in a sketch that parodies Mister Ed, including a parody of the theme song.
  • 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 Sheldon Allman, the original singing voice of Mister Ed.
  • Dell Comics published Mister Ed in Four Color #1295[22]
  • In the sitcom Dinosaurs, one of Earl Sinclair's favorite show is "Mister Ugh", a parody of Mister Ed featuring a caveman instead of a horse.
  • In the videogame Dragon Quest IV for the Nintendo DS, there is a town where many NPCs with name reminiscent of famous people cane be. One town features a talking horse named Mr. Ned.
  • In an episode of Green Acres, Mr. Haney tries to sell a talking horse named "Mr. Fred" to Mrs. Douglas.
  • In the Back at the Barnyard episode "Saving Mrs. Beady", Mister Ed was the last animal to jump into the hospital Mrs. Beady was in, but then looks at her and says "Wait a minute, you're not Aunt Mabel." He appears again later in the episode as Dr. Furtwangler's 4:00 patient.
  • Talking horses are featured in other live action films such as Hot to Trot, Ready to Run and the Monkees' Head.


External links

Horses portal
Television portal
  • Internet Movie Database
  • A film clip ]
  • A film clip ]
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Straight Dope
  • TV Acres
  • Interview with Alan Young, October 17, 2007
  • Archive of American Television interview with Alan Young
  • DVD review of Complete Season 1 and production history
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