Actor Alan Young, human star of horse sitcom 'Mister Ed,' dies at 96

Fri May 20, 2016 7:01pm EDT
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By Will Dunham

(Reuters) - Emmy award-winning actor Alan Young, who rode to enduring TV fame alongside a talking horse on the popular 1960s sitcom "Mister Ed" and co-starred in the classic sci-fi film "The Time Machine," has died at age 96, his manager said on Friday.

Young, who also provided the voice of cartoon characters including Disney's Scrooge McDuck, died from natural causes this week at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, a Los Angeles retirement facility for those in the movie and TV industry, according to his manager, Gene Yusem.

The English-born actor was best known for his role as Wilbur Post, an amiable architect with a loquacious palomino living in his backyard barn, during six seasons on "Mister Ed," which still airs in reruns a half century after its original run on CBS ended.

The series, which followed the success of the "Francis The Talking Mule" movies, involved a horse named Mister Ed, played by equine thespian Bamboo Harvester, that talked, but only to one person, Wilbur.

For decades after the show ended, Young said he was often saddled with questions by fans about how the horse's lips were made to move to look like Mister Ed was talking. Young said the show's producers did not want the secret revealed, so he trotted out the rumor that peanut butter was put in the horse's mouth.

"So I made up the peanut butter story, and everyone bought it," Young told interviewer Nick Thomas in 2009. "It was initially done by putting a piece of nylon thread in his mouth. But Ed actually learned to move his lips on cue when the trainer touched his hoof. In fact, he soon learned to do it when I stopped talking during a scene. Ed was very smart."

Young galloped financially, earning a portion of the show's profits. The series, which aired from 1961 to 1966, co-starred Connie Hines as Wilbur's wife and Allan Lane as the horse's voice.

Fans of the show also fondly remember its theme song, starting with the lyrics: "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."   Continued...