Secrets You Didn't Know About Mr. Ed the Talking Horse

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, Mr. Ed. While Mr. Ed's ability to talk may have seemed like magic at the time, lots of work went into creating that effect. But how did producers actually get palomino horse TV star Mr. Ed to "talk" on-screen?

Theories abound as to how Mr. 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.

Getting a Horse to Talk

Some viewers thought the camera focused on the equine until he yawned. Then co-star Alan Young, who played Mr. Ed's one confidante, Wilbur, told the story that 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.

So just how did producers get this palomino to talk?

Initially, a string was used. However, after training with Les Hilton, with whom the horse celebrity formed such a strong bond that he would only respond to him, the gelding learned to wag his lips whenever his hoof was touched.

More Fun Mr. Ed Facts

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

  • Bamboo Harvester was the name of the palomino show horse that played Mr. Ed. However, his stunt double, Pumpkin, was actually a Quarter horse. They looked almost identical except for a gold spot on Pumpkin's white patch. The coloration was covered up with white make-up for filming.
  • Because Bamboo Harvester only took direction from his trainer, Hilton had to be on set for every shot.
  • Actor Alan Young had to dye his naturally blonde hair a darker color because his locks blended in too much with the horse on the black-and-white screen.
  • Bamboo Harvester decided when he was done for the day and would reportedly just walk off the set when he was ready to call it quits.
  • George Burns produced the pilot episode.
  • Clint Eastwood appeared as himself in the episode "Clint Eastwood Meets Mister Ed"
  • Lyrics were later added by songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Livingston sang the lyrics as a placeholder, but the network liked his version enough to keep it.
  • Western B-movie star Allan "Rocky" Lane, the screen cowboy gave Mister Ed his distinctive voice.
  • The production company decided the tv series would begin in syndication. CBS picked it up.
  • The famous Mr. Ed went through a reboot in 2004 but wasn't picked up.
  • His keeper was Wilbur Post!

What ever happened to the original Mr. Ed? 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 Mr. Ed. In fact, this horse was only used for publicity photo shoots following the closing of the show.

What do you know about Mr. Ed? Did any of these facts surprise you? Let us know in the comments below!

All images via YouTube.

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Secrets You Didn't Know About Mr. Ed the Talking Horse