Clint Eastwood and movie historians might not want to admit it, but his career was elevated by a horse. Not just any horse, but a talking horse known as Mister Ed. Before he became the Man With No Name, Eastwood was the low drover on Rawhide‘s cattle drive crew. But on the set of Mister Ed, he was first recognized as a big time Hollywood star. This launching moment is found on Mister Ed: The Complete Second Season.
They named the episode “Clint Eastwood Meets Mister Ed” as if people should know Clint. They could have just called it “Mister Ed Meets a TV Cowboy.” The producers were grooming him for the day he’d be an international icon and Oscar winner. In the episode, Mr. Ed is upset when Clint moves into the neighborhood because his hulking horse is grabbing all the fillies. He’s no longer the stud. Mr. Ed installs a party line into Eastwood’s house in order to screw up his phone calls. The horse’s prank calls destroy Clint’s relationship with Donna Douglas (Beverly Hillbillies) and lose him a movie role. Younger viewers might have to ask their great grandparents about the party line. Wilbur (Alan Young) gets stuck writing a play for a fund-raising benefit. Wilbur’s an architect. He’s clueless when it comes to putting words on paper. Luckily Eastwood is on the scene. He’s got a short script and doesn’t mind directing Wilbur and his friends in the production. This is the moment when Clint Eastwood goes beyond being a cowboy actor and becomes the director that gives us Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven. When this episode ends, he’s no longer the guy who plays Rowdy on Rawhide. He is an auteur on the path to cinema domination.
Stars shined brightly when sharing the screen with the talking horse. “Zsa Zsa” has Zsa Zsa Gabor rent a house in the neighborhood. Wilbur and Paul Fenton (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory‘s Jack Albertson) become her lap dogs around the house. They can’t resist the Hungarian princess. Wilbur learns that Zsa Zsa can’t take a major acting part because of a fear of horses. He has Mr. Ed teach her how to look good in the saddle. He’s such a good mount that Zsa Zsa demands the producer hire Mr. Ed as her co-star. Wilbur rejoices that stardom awaits his stablemate. However the movie is being made in Australia. Can he really spend that much time apart from his chatty stallion?
“George Burns Meets Mister Ed” is an extremely deceptive title. Unlike other major stars, Burns only talks to the horse over the telephone. The not-yet-100 year old comic wants a unique act for his upcoming Las Vegas performance. He’s willing to fork out $25,000 for it. Wilbur thinks Mr. Ed would be perfect since what other comics in America work with a talking horse? Everyone thinks he’s nuts including Burns. Mr. Ed doesn’t care for the gig either. He prefers Wilbur be the only human that knows his secret. Will greed blow the secret?
“Ed the Beneficiary” has a shocker. Ed worries about what would happen to him if Wilbur dies. His owner visits the lawyer to make sure the horse won’t be sent to the glue factory. The shock comes when you realize the lawyer is Raymond Bailey. He played Mr. Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies, but looks difference since he’s missing his toupee. He went bareback for Mr. Ed. “No Horses Allowed” has a Neil Hamilton (Batman‘s Commissioner Gordon) passing around a petition to have horses banned from the neighborhood. The crusade leads to a televised debate when Wilbur botches his makeup. It’s up to Mr. Ed to save his own hide from eviction. “Ed the Matchmaker” is a secret pilot episode about a love mad teenage girl. What’s exciting is her father is George O’Hanlon. If his face doesn’t look familiar from his “Joe McDoakes” short, close your eyes. He’s also the voice of George Jetson.
Mister Ed: The Complete Second Season is historic as the first mid-season replacement show when it went from syndication to CBS. The step up to the network allowed the talking horse and his flustered owner to kick up their stride. The respectability of being on the Tiffany network allowed more famous guest stars to move into the neighborhood. What makes this boxset amazing is watching Clint Eastwood blossom as an icon while working with Mister Ed. The talking horse truly changed his life.
“My Son, My Son,” “The Horsetronaut,” “Ed’s Ancestors,” “Ed the Redecorator,” “Ed the Jumper,” “Ed the Voter,” “Hunting Show,” “Mister Ed’s Blues,” “Ed the Hero,” “Ed, the Salesman,” “Ed and the Elephant,” “The Wrestler,” “Ed’s Bed,” “Ed the Beneficiary,” “Zsa Zsa,” “Horse Wash,” “Ed the Horse Doctor,” “George Burns Meets Mister Ed,” “Ed’s Word of Honor,” “No Horses Allowed,” “Bald Horse,” “Ed’s New Neighbors,” “Ed the Beachcomber,” “Lie Detector,” “Clint Eastwood Meets Mister Ed” and “Ed the Matchmaker.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers are top notch with enough detail almost expose the trick of how Mister Ed talked. The audio is mono. The mix doesn’t make it sound like this was recorded in a barn. Allan Lane’s voicing of Mister Ed is solid without him drowning out Wilbur.
Audio Interview (92:00) with Alan Young and Connie Hines from Shokus Internet Radio’s Stu’s Show. The focus of the talk is about Hines’ career including her involvement in the quiz show scandals. Hines recently passed away so it’s valuable to hear her story. The audio runs over the video from episodes, but isn’t a commentary track.
Studebaker Car Commercials (5:18) feature Mr. Ed and the cast pushing the latest cars. Thrill to the size of a compact car in the early ‘60s. The video quality varies from good to extreme wavy. I do want a Mr. Ed puppet with the TV script.
Mister Ed: The Complete Second Season keeps up the strangeness of a man and his talking horse. The duo are constantly getting into trouble and forced to keep their secret. The big thrill of this season is the multitude of stars and future stars that arrive at the stable. The Clint Eastwood episode makes this vital for the collection of anyone that has the spaghetti westerns on their shelf.
Shout! Factory presents Mister Ed: The Complete Second Season. Starring: Alan Young, Connie Hines, Larry Keating and Edna Skinner. Boxset Contents: 26 Episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 2, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.