Thursday Video: Mister Ed Slides Into Home

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!

Not long ago, an abbreviated version of this video from the classic American sitcom Mister Ed made its way around the socials. Mister Ed aired from 1961 until 1966. It centered on a talking horse and was based on a series of short stories by children’s author Walter R. Brooks. In this particular episode from Season 4 (“Leo Durocher Meets Mister Ed”), Ed plays baseball with the LA Dodgers. As a hardcore Dodgers fan, Ed calls team manager Leo Durocher to give him some pointers (which always goes well…). Wilbur and Ed then have the chance to go to Dodgers Stadium to help Durocher, resulting in Ed hitting an inside-the-park home run pitched by Sandy Koufax (because of course he did!).

When this video most recently made the rounds, there was some speculation among baseball aficionados that it’s hugely unrealistic that Ed could hit a home run against Sandy Koufax. We don’t know much about that, but we do have some questions. When Ed slid into home, why didn’t he just do a reining stop? Granted, reining was in its infancy at this point, but wouldn’t that have been easier? Maybe it’s because there was something up with Ed’s hind end. After all, why is he cross-firing when he canters around the bases? What’s happening back there? We guess it’s a good thing he ended up in show business!

As a bonus — and because we know that what every avid Horse Nation reader really cares about is the horse itself — Ed was played by Bamboo Harvester, an American Saddlebred/Arabian cross. He was foaled in 1949 and trained by Will Rogers’ protégé, Les Hilton. Two years after the cancellation of Mister Ed, Bamboo began to show his age and with kidney problems and pain from arthritis. He was euthanized in 1970.

A further piece of trivia revolves around getting Ed to “speak.” There were reports that indicated that the talking effect was achieved by crew members applying peanut butter to the horse’s gums. However, this was untrue. According to the Mister Ed Wikipedia page, “To create the impression that Ed was having a conversation, Hilton initially used a thread technique he had employed for Lubin’s earlier Mule films; in time, though, this became unnecessary. As actor Alan Young recounted: ‘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.'”

In later interviews, Young said he invented the story about the peanut butter: “Al Simon and Arthur Lubin, the producers, suggested we keep the method [of making the horse appear to talk] a secret because they thought kids would be disappointed if they found out the technical details of how it was done, so I made up the peanut butter story, and everyone bought it.”

Still from Mister Ed.