Monday, August 6, 2012
Go Ahead, Make Me Neigh: Clint Eastwood on Mister Ed
Before Clint Eastwood became known as someone you wouldn’t dare screw with, he was susceptible to talking animal hijinx. A decade before he was The Man With No Name, and even longer before he was Dirty Harry, Eastwood’s first credited movie was Francis In The Navy, the last in the “Francis The Talking Mule” series (Eastwood can be seen starting at around 1:45)..
And during Eastwood’s days as a TV star, playing cowboy Rowdy Yates on Rawhide, he was bullied by none other than Mister Ed. I never got into Mister Ed, largely because by the time I started to watch Nick At Nite, they were showing the programs that aired for the first time when Mister Ed was on Nick At Nite. However, seeing one of the biggest badasses of all time on a sitcom, especially with a talking horse, was something I could not pass up.
The plot goes like this: Mister Ed causes his owner Wilbur Post (Alan Young, who voiced Scrooge McDuck in DuckTales) grief, since his new neighbor’s horse is fooling around with the local fillies. Never mind that Bamboo Harvester, the horse who played Mister Ed, was a gelding, and if you don’t know what a gelding is, then maybe it’s for the best. You never see the neighbor’s horse, Midnight, but you definitely see his owner, who of course is TV star Clint Eastwood playing himself. Eastwood has to share the Posts’ party line, which allows Mister Ed to screw with him, costing him a movie role and causing him trouble with his girlfriend. And oh yeah, he scares Eastwood’s maid into dropping a cake.
The rest of the episode is fairly standard but still interesting. Wilbur is the only one who hears Mister Ed, so Clint never knows who was pestering him on the party line. He does, however, try to literally whip Mister Ed into shape, before the horse hears that his romantic competition has been replaced with a filly (again, kinda creepy as the real Mister Ed is literally all talk in that area). The palomino gets the lady horse, and, thanks to the help of one of Eastwood’s earliest directorial efforts, Wilbur wins back his wife Carol after he ignores her throughout the episode.
Mister Ed was infamous for the rumors of how the crew got its horse to talk, with star Alan Young perpetuating a myth that they fed him peanut butter and his mouth movements are just him chewing. Wires were supposedly used on the horse during the first season, but Bamboo Harvester was said to have been able to “speak” on cue by himself later on. When Mister Ed “winks”, however, you can tell his eyelid is being pulled by string.
In the end “Mister Ed Meets Clint Eastwood” seems out of place in the legendary badass’ canon, but he does a pretty good job acquitting himself. Eastwood’s appearance seems to be a favor to Mister Ed producer Arthur Lubin, who discovered Clint and directed him in the aforementioned Francis In The Navy. In fifty years, Eastwood has become a national treasure, but in his early days was upstaged by a talking mule and a talking horse. Of course, of course.