Archive : Mister Ed in news ...
from Daily Dish TV guide article
Monday, May 11, 1998
Mr. Ed Mystery Solved?
Far be it from us to look a talking horse in the mouth, but we've always wondered: Just how did they make Mr. Ed speak?
"In my research, no one, including [series star] Alan Young, ever came out and said, 'This is absolutely how he was made to talk,' " says Mr. Ed expert Nancy Nalven, who penned the liner notes for Columbia House's Mr. Ed home-video series, released on its Re-TV label, as well as The Famous Mister Ed: The Unbridled Truth About America's Favorite Talking Horse.
The 73-year-old Young, who played Wilbur ? the only human to whom Ed deigned to speak ? has since tried to come clean about the trick. He claims trainers placed a soft piece of nylon under the horse's lip, but Nalven characterizes this as merely the leading explanation. Another popular hypothesis is what Nalven calls the "Skippy" theory, in which peanut butter was placed under the animal's lip.
Then there's the disturbing "horsepower" theory, which chalks it up to electric shock. Nalven is most skeptical of that one: "From interviewing all those people, I can't imagine that they would have inflicted harm on the horse."
A former photographer on the Ed set gave her the "marionette" theory, so that's the one she favors. "A nylon string was held across Ed's gums and pulled by his trainer, who stood by Ed's hindquarters out of camera view. And the harder the string was pulled, the wider Ed would open his mouth. But Ed was very smart, and once he realized what the trainer was trying to get him to do, they were able to get to a point where the string was tugged very gently, so it really was like a marionette. And Ed was not in any discomfort at all."
The only drawback to Ed's lip service was that he didn't always know when to stop. "You can see this in some of the episodes ? Ed would sometimes talk when he wasn't supposed to," Nalven reveals.
Another little-known fact is that Ed was played by two horses. The main Ed, a horse named Bamboo Harvester, was used for the talking close-ups. But a stunt Ed, a younger palomino named Punkin, was used for more rigorous performances. ? Michael Peck