Mister Ed, Movie Star

By Adele

Karen left us cats in charge today with orders not to generate controversy, so I’m sharing the best news I’ve heard since Sarah Palin finally admitted she’s not running for president.

Fox 2000 is going to make a feature film of the 1960s hit TV series starring my favorite horse, Mister Ed.

Back in 2004, someone tried to revive Mister Ed as a TV series — with a few changes. For example, they named the owner Wilbur Pope, which was the name originally used, but changed to Wilbur Post after the pilot episode.

Also, in the 2004 series the Popes had a son, which the Posts never did. Wilbur and Carol were newlyweds when the series began.

And in a breathtaking stroke of miscasting, the voice of Mister Ed was to be none other Sherman Helmsley, a.k.a. George Jefferson. So apparently they envisioned Mister Ed 2004 as a jive-talking turkey.

Mister Ed himself was never cast, and the whole project fell through.

In this new movie, they say Mister Ed will have a computer-generated mouth. I don’t know if it’s because Hollywood thinks today’s horses are stupid, or because computer jockeys are cheaper to hire than horse trainers.

The animated mouth cop-out only makes the original Ed’s achievement all the more amazing. Watch him in his opening credits…

Here’s some Ed trivia: Alan Young (Wilbur) made up the story that they used peanut butter to make Ed’s mouth move. They really put a loose piece of nylon thread in his lips to tickle them so Ed would try to dislodge the thread.

But by the end of the first season, Ed had figured out he was supposed to “talk” whenever the camera was running and Wilbur stopped talking. In the second season, Ed was mouthing his own dialogue. They had someone crouching off-camera to tap Ed on the leg as a cue to STOP talking.

And it only took Ed’s trainer about 15 minutes to teach Ed any of the physical stuff he did. Once Ed learned the stunt, he always performed it perfectly. Alan Young once said (and I paraphrase) that Ed made him a better actor because if Young fluffed his lines and caused several retakes, Ed would begin to think it was something he was doing wrong and he’d start improvising.

Bonus: Ed’s real name was Bamboo Harvester. He died in 1970, 4 years after the show went off the air, at the age of 21, from an accidental overdose of tranquilizer given by a temporary caregiver. On the show he played an 8-year-old, but he was actually 12 when filming started.

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9 Responses to Mister Ed, Movie Star

  1. adele says:

    Adele, this is great news! Not surprisingly, I loved Mr. Ed. In fact, as a small child, my imaginary friends were three horses, who lived together as a family (Nellie, Dobbin and Charlie). They were around until I started kindergarten, and I realized that there wouldn’t be room for them in a classroom, so I let them go. (As I’ve said before, I believe that my trip to senile dementia will be a short one.)

    Wherever Fred is (probably hanging with Barbaro and Bamboo Harvester), I know he’s grinning. I never realized what acting skill the original Mr. Ed had. I wonder who will be his voice and who will be his human companions.Do you have any thoughts? I kind of like Larry David for snark and Owen Wilson for sweetness.

  2. Bacardi1 says:

    As your typical horse-crazy young girl, “Mr. Ed” was a must-watch every week for me. Now as a horse-crazy middle-ager, I’m lucky enough to have my own “Mr. Ed” – lol! (Actually FIVE Mr. Eds, but only one is a palomino like the original.)

  3. catsworking says:

    Adele, I LOVE your casting ideas for the movie. Owen Wilson would make a great Wilbur. He’s got just the right touch of innocent craziness to be believable. And Larry David would be perfect as Roger Addison, the skinflint next-door neighbor.

    Did you know that the original Addison, Larry Keating, died of Leukemia at the end of the third season? His death was never addressed on the show, and they kept his wife, Kaye, around for a while by having her brother come to visit, but it became increasingly awkward without Roger, so they had her sell the house and move and Wilbur’s old Colonel moved in. The actress who played Kaye, Edna Skinner, was a horsey type and loved to ride Bamboo Harvester when he wasn’t working.

    I don’t mean to brag, but I believe am the world’s foremost feline scholar on all things Mister Ed.

    Bacardi1, how lucky you are to have horses! I just hope when they make the movie, they stick with a palomino. I think I read somewhere that they were planning to use a brown horse for the 2004 TV remake (prob. in keeping with the George Jefferson voice). I keep asking Karen for a horse, but she says our yard isn’t big enough. I’ve always wanted to try riding bareback.

    So far, there has been no word on casting the movie.

  4. adele says:

    Now about the voice of Mr. Ed — I’ve been wracking my brain, and for some reason, I can only come up with Louis Black. Of course, he’d make Mr. Ed one pissed off pony. I suppose Antonio Banderas is now type-cast as Puss ‘n Boots.

  5. catsworking says:

    Adele, Mister Ed’s voice was supplied by a cowboy actor named Allan “Rocky” Lane. If I remember this correctly, at first he didn’t want anyone to know it was him, but when the show became a hit, he changed his mind. Up to that point, Ed was billed as played by “Himself,” and the producers decided they didn’t want to disillusion all the little kids who believed Ed could talk by naming Lane, so they never did.

    Alan Young was so into the concept that he has said he forgot all about Rocky off-camera when he was doing scenes with Ed and let himself believe Ed was really talking.

    BTW, the first 5 seasons of Mister Ed are available on DVD (and we own them, natch). I hope they’ll put Season 6 out there so I can have the complete set. (Karen has them all on VHS with commercials, so we’ll have to dub those over in the worst case).

    The show was still going strong when the network decided it wanted a more “sophisticated” look and canceled it. The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres also bit the dust, I believe. There were a few finished scripts for new episodes of Ed that never got filmed.

  6. Jill blaske says:

    I loved watching mr ed reruns as a kid. Quite a few years ago i recorded all the shows. Now i watch them on antenna tv. Its such a good show, my daughter watched it when she was little 2.

  7. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Jill. Mister Ed Seasons 1-5 are now available on DVD, so I bought them. However, I had all the episodes of Season 6, which was canceled halfway through, on VHS, and recently transferred them, without commercials, to DVD. So now I have them all. I love that horse!

    And Wilbur just had his 94th birthday the other day.

  8. Jill blaske says:

    I loved watching mr ed with my late father. I still have all the shows recorded on vhs, and the 1st 3seasons on dvd. What a good show. My fave episodes are the ones where the addisons are the next door neighbors. How sad that larry keating died in 1963.

  9. catsworking says:

    Jill, amazingly enough, seasons 1-5 are all available on DVD. I had taped the entire series on VHS and was transferring them to DVD when I found I could buy it. So all I had to transfer was season 6, which was only half a season because they canceled it suddenly, despite good ratings.

    Agreed that the seasons with the Addisons were the best. The show never addressed Larry Keating’s death from leukemia, and they tried to keep Kay Addison (Edna something, her last name has slipped away) in the cast, but became increasingly awkward for her to always be alone for no reason, so she had to be let go so the Colonel and Winnie could move in to her house.

    I read, probably in the book Alan Young wrote, that Kay loved to ride Mister Ed during his off-screen time.

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