Mister Ed is an American television sitcom produced by Filmways 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 talking horse, originally appearing in short stories by Walter R. Brooks.
Mister Ed is one of the few series to debut in syndication and be picked up by a major network for prime time.
The Mister Ed show concept was derived from a series of short stories by children's author Walter R. Brooks, which began with The Talking Horse in the September 18, 1937, issue of Liberty magazine. Brooks is otherwise best known for the Freddy the Pig series of children's novels, which likewise featured talking animals that interact with humans. Sonia Chernus, secretary to director Arthur Lubin, introduced Lubin to the Brooks stories and is credited with developing the concept for television.
The show's concept resembles that of the Francis the Talking Mule movies in which an equine title character talks, but only to one person, thus causing a variety of opportunities and frustrations. The first six Francis films (1950–55) were also directed by Lubin.
Lubin wanted to make a Francis TV series but had been unable to secure the rights. However someone told him about Brooks' series of stories. He optioned these for TV.
Comedian George Burns financed the original pilot for Mister Ed which was shot at his McCadden Studio in Hollywood at a cost of $70,000. Scott McKay played Wilbur. Jack Benny was also involved behind the scenes. Unable to sell the show to a network, Lubin decided to sell the show into syndication first. He managed to get single sponsor identification for the program on over 100 stations. The show was recast with Alan Young in the lead. Production began in November 1960, although Lubin did not direct early episodes because he was working in Europe on a film. The first 26 episodes were well received enough for the show to be picked up by CBS.
The show in effect had two leads operating as a comedy team. The title role of Mister Ed, a talking palomino, was played by gelding Bamboo Harvester and voiced by former Western film actor Allan Lane. The role of Ed's owner, a genial but somewhat klutzy architect named Wilbur Post, was played by Alan Young. Many of the program's gags follow from Mister Ed's tendency to talk only to Wilbur, his skills as a troublemaker, and his precociously human-like behaviour that far exceeds anything those around Wilbur expect of a horse. A running gag is other characters hearing Wilbur talking to Ed and asking to whom he is talking. Another running gag centers on Wilbur being accident-prone and inadvertently causing harm to himself and others. According to Lubin, Young was chosen for the lead role because he "just seemed like the sort of guy a horse would talk to".
The other main character throughout the series is Wilbur's generally tolerant young wife, Carol (Connie Hines). The Posts also have two sets of neighbors, to whom Ed delights 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 death in 1963; thereafter, Skinner continued appearing as Kay, without mention of Roger's absence, until the neighbors were recast. During this period, Kay's brother Paul Fenton (Jack Albertson), who had made occasional appearances before, appears. 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 to 1965. In 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. Wilbur and his father-in-law did not get along at all because Mr. Higgins loathed Wilbur, whose quirky eccentricity and klutzy, half-hearted attempts to be friendly always clashed with Mr. Higgins's emotionless and uptight personality. Carol's father never stopped trying to persuade her to divorce Wilbur, whom he often and openly 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.
Ed's ability to talk was never explained, or ever contemplated much on the show. In the first episode, when Wilbur expresses an inability to understand the situation, Ed offers the show's only remark on the subject: "Don't try. It's bigger than both of us!"
The Posts resided at 17230 Valley Spring Road in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.Main cast
Allan Lane as Mister Ed (voice only)
Alan Young as Wilbur Post
Connie Hines as Carol Post
Bamboo Harvester as Mister Ed (credited as "Himself", as was standard for non-human characters in Filmways productions)
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)
Several celebrity guest stars appeared as themselves during the course of the series:Mae West
Clint Eastwood in "Clint Eastwood Meets Mister Ed"
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Jack LaLanne appeared in a cameo near the beginning of the "Psychoanalyst Show" episode of season 1, in which Ed is watching the exercise show.
Other known performers appeared in character roles:Donna Douglas appeared in three episodes, first as the "Lady Godiva" model in "Busy Wife", then as Blanche in "Ed the Jumper" and later as Clint Eastwood's girlfriend in "Clint Eastwood Meets Mister Ed"
Alan Hale Jr.
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 six seasons on DVD in Region 1 in the U.S. Notably, Seasons 4 and 5 are not available outside of the continental U.S. The sixth and final season was released on May 12, 2015.
Syndicated versions of eight episodes were utilized for Season One DVD release. All other DVD releases contain unedited, full-length versions.
One episode (the second-season episode "Ed the Beneficiary") has lapsed into the public domain. Also in the public domain is a 19-minute production of the United States Department of the Treasury, done in the style of a Mister Ed episode with the show's full cast (but without a laugh track), promoting Savings Bonds, and the original unaired pilot, which was published without a copyright notice.
On December 9, 2014, Shout! Factory released Mister Ed- Complete Series on DVD in Region 1. The 22-disc set contains all 143 episodes of the series as well as bonus features.
♦- 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, and Sherilyn Fenn as Carol. 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.
In 2012, Waterman Entertainment announced they were developing a new feature film based on Mister Ed.
A race horse 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 (who died in 1970). It was intended to be themed to the style of the show and its period.Talking horses are featured in other live action films such as the Monkees' Head (1968), Hot to Trot (1988), and Ready to Run (2000).
In the film Dr. Dolittle (1998), while the titular doctor is committed to a mental hospital, he watches an episode of Mister Ed with two of the hospital's orderlies, who discuss their theories of how Mister Ed was trained to move his lips and "talk".
In the videogame Dragon Quest IV for the Nintendo DS, there is a town where many NPCs with names reminiscent of famous people can be. The town features a talking horse named Mr. Ed.
The Beastie Boys use a sample of Mister Ed's voice in their song "Time To Get Ill" from the album Licensed to Ill (1987).
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.
"Now That I Am Dead" by French Frith Kaiser Thompson features a Mister Ed impersonation on the line "I Am Mister Dead".
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
In an episode of All in the Family, in which Mike and Gloria feed the Bunkers horse meat without telling them but later cave in and tell Edith about it, Edith exclaims, "I keep thinking about Mr. Ed!"
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.
A sketch from Chappelle's Show parodying the documentary series Frontline "profiles" racist Hollywood animals, one of which was Mister Ed, who was shown belittling a black actress with racial slurs.
The Mister Ed clip from this sketch was later posted to the Internet without context and claimed to be a legitimate clip from the original series, leading to a brief surge in the mistaken belief that the Mister Ed TV show had been racist.
In the sitcom Dinosaurs, one of Earl Sinclair's favorite shows is Mister Ugh, a parody of Mister Ed featuring a caveman instead of a horse.
In the Green Acres episode "The Birthday Gift", Mr. Haney tries to sell a talking horse (voice of Rich Little) named "Mr. Fred" to Mrs. Douglas.
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.
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.