Alan Young dies at 96; star of TV’s ‘Mister Ed’ – Los Angeles Times

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Alan Young, the amiable comedic actor who became a TV icon in the early 1960s starring opposite a talking horse named Mister Ed, died Thursday. He was 96.

Young, whose later career included doing the voices for Scrooge McDuck and other cartoon characters, died of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Home, the Motion Picture & Television Fund confirmed on Friday. He lived at the retirement community for more than four years and died with his children by his side. 

A veteran of radio and movies who starred in his own Emmy Award-winning TV comedy-variety show in the early 1950s, Young was on a career downswing when he was signed to play the lead in “Mister Ed.”

Comedian-producer George Burns already had financed a failed “Mister Ed” pilot with other actors when he told his associates: “I think we should get Alan Young. He looks like the kind of guy a horse would talk to.”

“Mister Ed,” which began as a syndicated series in January 1961 and moved to CBS that fall for a four-year run, featured Young as affable architect Wilbur Post, who moves with his wife Carol (Connie Hines) into a new home and is startled to discover that the backyard barn includes a horse that speaks to him.

Young later said that he and his four-legged co-star were “great pals” and that the relationship between Wilbur and Ed “was the backbone of the series.” 

Wilbur was “naïve and bumbling,” while “Ed was a wily one,” he told The Times in 1990. “I think it’s the same chemistry that made Laurel and Hardy and Jackie Gleason and Art Carney: It’s the one guy making a fool of the other guy.”

An un-credited Allan “Rocky” Lane, a former B-movie cowboy star, provided the deep voice for the mischievous Mister Ed.

“Because he had been a star at one time, Rocky didn’t want his name to appear on the credits,” Young said in a 2004 interview with the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. “But after the first year and the show had become a success, he went to the producers and said he would like a credit line.

“They told him no because kids in the audience were writing to Ed and thought the horse could really talk. They gave Rocky a nice raise instead, and he seemed happy with that.”

When Young filmed scenes with the horse, whose real name was Bamboo Harvester, Lane would stand at the edge of the set with a microphone and his script.

“It really helped to do it like that,” said Young. “Having Rocky there made me feel sometimes like I really was talking to the horse.”

One of the first questions fans always asked Young was: How did they get the horse to move his mouth when he “talked.”

For years, he kept the answer a closely guarded secret.

“I started a big lie,” he confessed in a 2001 interview with the Archive of American Television. “I said, ‘Well, when you were a kid did you ever get peanut butter stuck under your lip?’ ‘Oh, that’s how its done!’ So I never really lied; I just asked them a question. But that wasn’t true at all.”

Alan Young dies at 96; star of TV’s ‘Mister Ed’ – Los Angeles Times