Mister Ed, The Talking Horse: Hollywood Secrets You Never Knew

Posted by Stacey Venzel
Mr. Ed
All images via YouTube

If you love horses or grew up in the 1960s, chances are you've seen some episodes of the famous TV show, Mister Ed. While Mister Ed's ability to talk may have seemed like magic at the time, lots of work went into creating that effect. But how did the sitcom's producers actually get a TV star palomino horse to "talk" on-screen?

Theories abound as to how Mister Ed's lips moved during the eight-year run of the beloved 1960s American television show about a comedic and adventurous talking horse. You've heard the theme song even, if you didn't grow up in that decade: "A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course. That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed." Truth is, some creativity and training were behind this behavior.

How Did Mr. Ed Talk?

For years, many viewers thought the Hollywood cameras simply focused on Mr. Ed until he moved his lips or simply yawned. However, co-star Alan Young, who played Mr. Ed's close human confidante Wilbur Post, recalled how the crew put peanut butter in the horse's mouth to get him to move his lips.

Young later recanted this comment, stating that he had only said that because he didn't want to disappoint children with the technicality of how it was actually done.

If that's the case, just how did producers get this palomino to talk? Initially, a string was used to flip Mr. Ed's upper lip, according to a trivia submission on IMDB. As the show progress, famous horse trainer Les Hilton taught the gelding to wag his lips whenever his hoof was touched. Talk about Hollywood magic!

Who Was The Voice of Mister Ed?

Though Mister Ed was officially credited as "himself," it was B-movie cowboy star Allan "Rocky" Lane who voice throughout the iconic television series. The job of producing Ed's singing voice, however, was given to Sheldon Allman.

Trivia Facts About Mister Ed The Talking Horse

Many more secrets abound with this iconic black-and-white TV show:

  • Bamboo Harvester was the name of the palomino show horse that played Mister Ed. His stunt double's name was Pumpkin, a Quarter horse. The only major difference between the two breeds was a gold spot on Pumpkin, which the show's cast covered with white make-up before filming.
  • Pumpkin later appeared in the CBS sitcom Green Acres.
  • Bamboo Harvester acted based on direction from trainer Les Hilton, who was on set for every shot.
  • Alan Young had to dye his naturally blonde hair a darker color for the show; He blended in with Bamboo Harvester's coat on the black-and-white screen!
  • Filming typically wrapped for the day when Bamboo Harvester would reportedly walk off the set and "call it quits."
  • George Burns produced the show's pilot episode.
  • Clint Eastwood appeared as himself in an episode titled, "Clint Eastwood Meets Mister Ed"
  • The production company decided the decade-long tv series would begin in syndication as CBS picked it up.
  • Mister Ed was tested as a remake in 2004, but never gained steam.
  • Connie Hines (Carol Post) appeared in 144 episodes, while Edna Skinner (Kay Addison) and Larry Keating (Roger Addison) acted in more than 80 alongside Mister Ed and Alan Young.

When Did Mr. Ed Die?

Unbeknownst to fans, Bamboo Harvester died a couple years after the show's series end, though recounts of his death vary. What we do know is that the death happened under the radar, allowing the public to believe that another horse, who later died in 1979, was the original Mister Ed. In fact, this horse was only used for publicity photo shoots following the closing of the show.

Did you watch Mister Ed during its prime? Let us know in the Facebook comments!

This article was originally published January 31, 2020.

READ MORE: The True Story of Balto, Disney's Hero Sled Dog

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Mister Ed, The Talking Horse: Hollywood Secrets You Never Knew