Wednesday 9 December 2020

TV's Horse Hysterics

The idea is completely ridiculous, but it turned out to be a success for six TV seasons.

People loved seeing Alan Young have a conversation with a horse.

Ridiculous it may have been but Young somehow made it believable. He was a nice, average guy who ended up in a situation that flustered and frustrated him. Adults could identify with it. And kids like horses, especially ones with a sense of humour.

The folksy TV writer for the Birmingham News got a chance to meet the cast of the show (except Ed) and milked two columns out of it. The first appeared September 13, 1962, the next on October 24th. The first is missing the last few words so I’m giving you what I think the gist of them was.

The show was, for the most part, centred around the horse and Young’s Wilbur Post. Poor Connie Hines was kind of the odd person out and I imagine she was happy to get the attention of a reporter.

Mr. Ed makes season's bow Sept. 27—Alan Young, too
News TV-radio editor
Alan Young has been asked a dozen times how it feels to play second fiddle to a horse, but when I was in his dressing room in Hollywood I had to pop the same question . . . “I love this horse . . . He's a dear,” he replied . . . MR. ED wasn't talking. He wasn’t around . . . But I saw his dressing room, too . . . Right down the alley from Alan's, a stall with plenty of hay.
MR. ED makes his season's premiere over WAPI-TV at 6:30 p.m. Thursday Sept. 27, a new day and new time . . .
“I used to think radio (he had a show in his own name) was hard but it was a dream compared to TV,” Young told me in the interview . . . “But this beats digging ditches, doesn't it? . . . The day starts at 7 a.m. and it seems like a long one, lasting until 7 p.m., but generally until 6:30 . . . We take three days to make an episode, but sometimes four.”
“I'm grateful to the kids,” the gracious Young continued, “for it's been a great help to have their interest in the MR. ED series . . . Parents have been drawn in, too, by the sharp sayings of the horse We have a time keeping him from 'talking' when he moves his lips and we can't stop him. . . . There are no wires, but mostly it's his reflexes from touches.”
MR. ED'S TRAINER is Les Hilton . . . “The horse lives up in San Fernando Valley . . . My love is Mr. Ed,” volunteered Alan, “at least one of them and certain people—my family—especially my daughter,” there's a son. too . . . “Mr. Ed is obedient." Young declared . . . Most horses are not intelligent apart from Ed. . . . 'Rocky' Lane does his voice.”
Alan said he had never been to Birmingham although he's been South . . . to New Orleans, but he has a sister who loves the South because it reminds her of England . . . He admitted that his Canadian accent comes out once in a while . . . “I’ve been here since 1945,” he explained, “and in Hollywood since 1946. . . . I was in New York for a year and that's the place to lose your accent like I did.”
“We have a blessing here,” Alan observed, “as we on the MR. ED set go home when others work every day . . . I'll tell you something. Arthur Lubin, who owns half the show is the director, is a secret nibbler. And when Mr. Ed gets hungry he heads for his stall and his hay.
“YOU DO A SCENE and you think it's done well, but one of the lights on the set flickers off and you have to do it all over again. Most of the time the actor goes along with what the director wants . . . If it’s a good show, you can put the tension in your pocket, but if it's humorous, it's fine . . . We don't have time for a star to show his temperament.
“With a new time and a new night, you push a little harder . . . For relaxation I go home, look at the TV . . . I get the TONIGHT SHOW for tomorrow, watch the news, learn my lines and generally fall asleep in my chair around 9 p.m.
“The day we were watching a MR. ED scene Ricki Starr was the guest star and a two or three minute segment was done over and over by this wrestler and ballet dancer (imagine that!) . . . It was with Connie Hines and Ann Skinner [sic], both of whom we met and also Larry Keating, the next door neighbor. So we didn't get an interview with MR. ED (it was his day off) but with the folks around him . . . And the talk with Young was especially pleasing, as was speaking with the other stars . . . Never cared for animal stories on screen or TV much, but since talking with Young and his folks. I'll be tuning in, especially the one in which Ricki [Starr appears].

Set of Mr. Ed characterized by warmth, Miss Hines says

News TV-radio editor
If Alan Young plays second fiddle to a horse, MR. ED, what does that make Connie Hines, who is Young’s TV wife? . . . Whatever it is she doesn’t mind it, she revealed when on the CBS junket to Atlanta . . . She loves the series, and has no immediate ambitions for any others, she vowed . . . . But, she added: “If you become a big enough TV personality, the movies want you . . . Naturally I’d want a part in movies if it was good. I don’t believe there's another couple on TV that have the warmth that's between Alan and I on MR. ED, she declared . . . There’s no tension on the set . . . Alan is the star but he’s just one of us and doesn’t push himself around . . . Ed makes it better than a situation comedy.”
Connie had a lot of praise, too, for the other couple on the show. Larry Keating and Edna Skinner . . . I can bear witness to how pleasant all the people are, for I visited the set while in Hollywood, and Connie remembered the day we were there . . . Keating was very helpful on our visit . . . And when we went to Young’s dressing room he was very cordial, as you may remember from the interview I had with him . . . MR. ED is on WAPI-TV Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
LIKE ANOTHER TV editor there who had an aversion to talking animals I wasn’t much of a MR. ED fan until met all these people . . . And will have to confess that since then I've seen a few episodes and liked the program ... It has a better hour now (formerly 5:30 p.m. Sundays).
Connie is a native of Greensboro. N. C. . . . “I married when I was 17 and didn't know what 1 was doing,” she explained . . . “Then I moved to Jacksonville, Fla., where I started acting and grew up in an acting family . . . Then I went on to New York and then to Hollywood.
“Our show is a fantasy . . . You believe in the devotion between Alan and the horse . . . Ed adores Alan and his trainer . . . But Ed believes in himself . . . One day Ed had done a scene three times and the director wanted to do it over again ... But Ed thought three times was enough and refused to do it again and went back to his dressing room—I mean stall.
“WE HAVE JUST done a show called ‘The Horse Party’ and the producer and director had to run the actors off because they went into hysterics over action . . . Ed wanted a party, so all the fillies in the neighborhood were invited . . . They all came in funny looking hats and it was a scream! One day I had a call for 1 p.m. and thought that would be glorious . . . I could sleep late and enjoy it . . . But the phone rang at 10 a.m. and they said Ed was sick and couldn’t work, so I had to get up and go in earlier.” . . . Ed is 8 years old, she replied to one editor and another said a horse was old at 15, so Ed may be good for a few more years.
Some one asked how they made MR. ED talk and Connie said she was pledged to secrecy on that . . . But I volunteered that when I did my interview with Young he told me all about it . . . Connie was surprised. In case you don’t remember they punch him to make him move his lips and Rocky Lane, the actor, does his voice . . . Connie was astounded that I knew this and some one injected: “Read it first in The Birmingham News!”
CONNIE EXHIBITED a badly bruised right arm and said she had another bruise on her stomach which she suffered the Friday before she left for Miami and Atlanta . . . She also had an auto accident that same week and had a slight concussion and three stitches to show for it . . . The arm was from a scene where Young came in the door and they met headlong . . . When we left to come on the plane down South I warned the other members of the party this wasn't my week, but we made it.
MR. ED is going into its 13th show now, she said . . . It was scheduled for 26, “but we may go to 39,” Connie added . . . “We may also go to Japan for some segments.” . . . And TV editors conjectured at what all might take place on a trip like that.
Connie is another of the TV cuties this editor enjoyed meeting on his recent travels . . . As you interview these guys and dolls, you appreciate more seeing them on TV . . . And now that I've talked to Connie as I did with Young, Keating and Miss Skinner, I’ll enjoy watching Miss Hines more and more.

1 comment:

  1. Hans Christian Brando10 December 2020 at 07:17

    There was a time, boys and girls, when mainstream TV comedies were intended merely to entertain and amuse, not make broad social statements with the writers anxious to share the profound human truths they gleaned in therapy or rehab. If the premise was absurd, nobody pretended that it was supposed to be anything else. The irony is that, when these dopey sitcoms dominated the airwaves, people on the whole were better educated than they are now.