Mister Ed, Movie Star

November 16, 2011

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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