Not all classic shows would make it today, and Mister Ed may be one of those shows. Although the TV series still has plenty of fans, the special effects leave a little to be desired compared to what’s been accomplished since the 1960s. But at the time, viewers were impressed by how the horse moved his lips to make it look like he was talking. How did they train him to do that?
‘Mister Ed’ aired in the 1960s
In 1961, when Mister Ed debuted on CBS, it was destined to be a classic. According to Encyclopedia, the series was a comedy centered around a horse that could talk and had plenty of wisdom to share. It was on the air until 1966, airing reruns for years after.
The chatty horse was played by a golden palomino called Bamboo Harvester. The horse was a talented and intelligent animal. He quickly learned to perform tricks, such as unlatching the stable door and dialing a telephone. He reportedly only took 15 minutes to learn what he was supposed to do in a scene.
In the world of TV before the special effects of today, Mister Ed accomplished an amazing feat — a horse that actually moved his lips to give the impression of speech. But how did the trainer get Bamboo Harvester to play his part?
How Bamboo Harvester learned to talk for ‘Mister Ed’
There have been a number of rumors about how the horse’s trainer, Lester Hilton, got him to move his lips. For example, some people swear that Hilton put peanut butter in his mount to cause the motion.
But according to MsMojo, the technique was a little more involved. Nylon fishing line was threaded into the horse’s mouth. He twitched his lips in an effort to dislodge the annoying thread.
Over time, Bamboo Harvester learned to make the same motions without having to use the nylon line. It turns out that hitting his mark wasn’t the only skill the horse was able to master.
The mystery surrounding the real Mister Ed’s death
According to Wide Open Country, Bamboo Harvester’s death is shrouded in mystery. Some reports claim that he was quietly euthanized in 1970, because he was suffering from a number of health problems.
But another story has circulated that came from one of his Mister Ed co-stars, Alan Young. Young said that he often visited Bamboo Harvester after he retired. He claimed that in 1979, the horse was given a tranquilizer by a temporary caregiver. Apparently, the horse seemed to be struggling to get to his feet, so the caregiver gave him the medication to calm him. For unknown reasons, the tranquilizer killed him instead.
However, Bamboo Harvester’s long-time trainer Hilton said that this story isn’t about the famous horse at all. He insisted that the original Mr. Ed died in 1970, as originally reported. After his death, people started referring to another horse as Mr. Ed. This other horse looked very much like the star, so much so that he had posed as a stand-in for publicity photos.
Young said that it was this horse double that died in 1979, but he couldn’t bring himself to “shatter their illusions” when fans were mourning his loss.
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