Alan Young, ‘Mister Ed’ Star, Dies at 96

Alan Young Dead Mr. Ed
Courtesy of CBS

Alan Young, who gamely played straight man to a talking horse for five years in classic sitcom “Mr. Ed,” died Thursday at the Motion Picture and Television Home in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 96.

On the series, which ran from 1961-66 on CBS, Young played architect Wilbur Post, who was married to Carol (played by Connie Hines, who died in 2009) and kept a horse, Mr. Ed, in their suburban stable. Mr. Ed, voiced by Allan “Rocky” Lane, would speak only to Wilbur, but given Mr. Ed’s rather outlandish personality and the superbly mild affect of Young’s Wilbur, just who owned whom could occasionally be a matter of debate.

Young also voiced Scrooge McDuck and numerous other animated characters, as well as guesting on dozens of TV shows.

In 2005 “Mr. Ed” won a TV Land Award for most heart-warming pet-owner interaction. Young also directed four episodes of “Mr. Ed.” The show was one of the first to start in syndication, achieve success, then get picked up by a network.

While he will be most remembered for “Mr. Ed,” Young had a long and busy acting career.

Young was second billed — behind Rod Taylor but ahead of Yvette Mimieux — in the 1961 hit film “The Time Machine,” the adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel in which Young played the loyal friend to Taylor’s George, who builds the machine and time travels.

Young was clearly fascinated by the Wells work: He appeared in a small role in the 2002 “Time Machine” remake starring Guy Pearce and directed by Simon Wells, a direct descendant of H.G., and in the 2010s, when he was in his early 90s, Young was recording the narration of an animated film, to be released in April 2015 and called “The Time Machine Alan Young.”

He took a long break from showbiz after “Mr. Ed” — 10 years, during which he drove across America — then returned to TV, guesting on the brief series “Gibbsville,” appearing in feature “The Cat from Outer Space” and transitioning into a career that primarily consisted of doing voice work for television animation series. His specialty was a Scottish accent, and eventually he became the fourth voice performer to be officially handed the task of voicing Scrooge McDuck since Dallas  McKennon did it in the 1960s. He first voiced Scrooge McDuck in a 1983 short called “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” and later did so on the “DuckTales,” “Mickey Mouse Works” and “Raw Toonage” series, 1990 feature “DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp” as well as TV movie “Super DuckTales.”

Young had lent his voice to Disney even before starting the animation work, sharing a 1977 Emmy nomination in the best recording for children category for “Disney’s A Christmas Carol.”

Other animated efforts to which he lent his voice included feature “The Great Mouse Detective” as well as the series “Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo,” “Battle of the Planets,” “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Dukes,” “The Smurfs,” (series), “Alvin and the Chipmunks” (series) and animated TV movie “A Flintstone Family Christmas.”

He also made guest appearances on “The Love Boat,” guested on the series “Down to Earth,” made appearances in various roles on “ABC Weekend Specials,” made the obligatory stop on “Murder, She Wrote” and appeared on “St. Elsewhere” in 1987. He was a  series regular in “Coming of Age,” a sitcom about people living in a retirement community in Arizona; in the show he was paired with the British actress Glynis Johns. He guested on “Doogie Howser, M.D.” and “Coach”; he appeared in the “Hart to Hart” telepic “Home Is Where the Hart Is” and the feature “Beverly Hills Cop III” and guested on “Party of Five.”

Young was 74 at  this point and not remotely slowly down — he would work for, more or less, another 20 years. He also voiced Haggis McHaggis on “The Ren & Stimpy Show.”

Meanwhile, in the live-action world, he made appearances on the “Wayan Bros.” series, “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “The Tony Danza Show.” He appeared on an episode of “ER” in 2000 in which he played a nursing-home resident who flashes back to a traumatic event during the Korean War and causes some mayhem in the ER. He guested on “FreakyLinks,” returned to the role of Wilbur Post for an episode of “God, the Devil and Bob,” and starred in a 2004 telepic called “Em & Me,” in which he played a senior, thought senile by his family, who takes off on a road trip.

Young did videogame voice work as well starting with “The Curse of Monkey Island” in 1997. Between 2008 and 2013, he voiced Scrooge McDuck in four Disney videogames: “Disney TH!NK Fast,” “Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep,” “Disney Magical World” and “DuckTales: Remastered.”

Alan Young was born Angus Young in North Shields, Tyne-and-Wear, England, but the family moved to Scotland and then to Canada.

He was performing on the radio by age 13; by 17 he had his own radio show on Canada’s CBC. The show, which also aired in the U.S., led to an invitation to perform on American radio, where he had his “Alan Young Radio Show” from 1944-49. After his show was canceled (and radio was fading in general),  Young assembled a comedy act and toured the U.S.

Meanwhile, the young actor made his screen debut with a supporting role in the 1946 film “Margie,” followed by “Chicken Every Sunday” and Mr. Belvedere Goes to College.”

Moving to TV, he wrote a pilot for CBS in 1950, resulting in live variety revue “The Alan Young Show” that earned him a best actor Emmy in 1951. He was also nominated for outstanding personality.

He did not, however, give up on feature films. He starred with Dinah Shore in the musical “Aaron Slick From Punkin Crick,” and he played Androcles in “Androcles and the Lion,” a film that also starred Jean Simmons, Victor Mature and Elsa Lanchester, among others. He also had a prominent role in sequel “Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes,” starring Jane Russell. A few years later, he was second-billed in George Pal’s fantasy film “tom thumb,” starring Russ Tamblyn.

With Bill Burt, Young wrote the autobiography “Mr. Ed and Me,” which was published in 1995.

Young’s first marriage to Mary Anne Grimes in the 1940s ended in divorce. Young married Virginia McCurdy in 1948 but after a period of separation they divorced in 1995. He was married to Mary Chipman from 1996 to 1997.

He is survived by four children.

Contributions may be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund and to Y.E.S. The Arc, a residential program for persons with special needs.

 

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 28

Leave a Reply

28 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. wanda johnson says:

    I love the Mr. Ed Show the talking Horse, They just drop it off of Me Tv I was so Hurt I am still sad Because it was a Very Good Show, I don’t know why they took it off I wish some one could tell me, It was so funny it really made my day I am sickly and that show really cheered me up !!!

  2. Jonah Falcon says:

    Alan Young will always be a Disney voice for me as Scrooge McDuck and others.

  3. Lee says:

    Even today, every morning, I watch reruns of Mr. Ed. I love it! Goodbye Wilbur, we will meet in Heaven.

  4. Young Fan says:

    Later in his life, Mr. Alan Young, whose birth name was Angus, went on to become a member of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC.

  5. Lee Hubbard says:

    Alan Young was the last surviving cast member of Mister Ed.

  6. Billy delaRosa says:

    R.I.P uncle scrooge will love and will miss you goodbye

  7. I will never forget Alan’s kindness. I tried to visit with him last week at the motion picture home but he was too sick to see visitors. I am sad that I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye. What a wonderful man!

  8. J.B. says:

    Those of us who watched Mr. Ed as youngsters, will never forget Wilbur and Mr. Ed. I believe the show aired on Sunday evenings on CBS. To this day, I remember the song from the show and my granddaughter plays with my old Mr. Ed puppet. Several years ago, my son who loved watching Mr. Ed DVD’s, heard that Alan Young was doing a book signing at a local Barnes & Noble. We rushed down there and there was only one fan at the signing table when we arrived. After the fan left, my son and I met and spoke with Mr. Young for the next hour. Sadly, we were the only ones there to see him during our time there. Evidently, none of the other customers knew who he was. Mr. Young signed our books and took photos with us. For me, it was like seeing an old friend. He was as gracious, kind and humble as anyone could be, He was very appreciative that we spent the time with him and he told us numerous Mr. Ed stories as well as Time Machine stories. I went home and read his book and realized how instrumental he was in radio and the advent of television.

    It’s a shame how we throw aside those who were once in the public eye but are now seen as dispensable. I wish his talents could have been used more often and more effectively, however, he did do numerous voice-overs in his later years.

    I will never forget the Mr. Ed episode of Ed trying out for the Dodgers. Ed hit a long drive off the left field wall by holding the bat between his teeth and galloped around the bases and eventually slid home safely. And who did he hit that inside the park homer off of? That’s right, none other than Sandy Koufax,

    Rest in peace Mr. Young. A horse is a horse, of course, of course. But you were a real human being.
    I’m glad my son and I got to meet you. Our condolences to your family, friends and fans.

  9. S.N. says:

    We’ll miss you, Mr. Young!

    Reading his bio; YES! He was a celebrity whose legacy was never crushed because he chose to be “human”. I want everyone to watch Mr. Ed and DuckTales FOREVER! (Sorry, I kept my statement kid-friendly and cubicle-friendly as you see here. I just don’t want to see good clean entertainment go away due to current events like last year. Needless to say, I’m a reality show-hater! ;-) )

  10. IT--II--IT says:

    Much more memorable in the 1960 ‘The TIME Machine’
    and its expose of globalist mafia —-and USURY – – —EUGENICS — —and GENOCIDE.

  11. Steve Giner says:

    Never was there any kinder more giving people than Alan Young and his beautiful intelligent Mr.Ed co-star Connie Hines! Its been over twenty years since I first met them at a charity event for the Animal Rescue Foundation of Dana Point. They had put on a performance at the event to raise funding for this all-volunteer animal rescue organization. After the event they were kind enough to mingle with the guests at a reception, many of whom had been fans of the show as children. The two stars patiently spoke with the individual attendees answering questions and sharing stories. Several months later I had the honor of being invited into Miss Hines’ Dana Point home. With all the too often bad press Hollywood actors receive it was truly inspiring to meet people of such a high caliber from that community. The world is the worse for the passing of Mr. Young and Miss Hines.

  12. Adam Angle says:

    A long time ago in my life, I found I was decent at reproducing sounds and character voices. My first character voice was probably Woody Woodpecker, whom I adored, at the time. I was possibly only four or five years old, and could belt out his laugh and voice on command. Woody’s laugh was a regular thing for my cousins to ask of me, and I was happy to do so.

    35 years later, I can still do that laugh, although Woodpecker’s actual voice is not one anyone would recognize without the character being present to show whom it’s coming from.

    Shortly after that, I figured out the voice of Donald Duck. That’s been a staple for most of my life, and I don’t really get why people find this a difficult voice to pull off. But apparently, some people do.

    Fast forward to my tenth year, and the car accident that changed my life forever. A lot of the changes weren’t so great, but I’ve gotten over most of them through the years. One thing that stayed, though, was that it was the year Ducktales started airing after school, and on Saturday mornings. I usually, or always, missed it on Saturday mornings, but after school, I was able to watch it for years, because it was on for years, and it was great! Adventures in far off lands, storylines that were sometimes a lot more deep than they had a right to be for a children’s show, and great characters driving the stories made it worth watching every time. In the midst of those characters was Scrooge McDuck: a character who didn’t particularly want to be involved with the raising of his nephews, at all, and had come from almost nothing, himself, to become the most wealthy person in the world.

    Looking into the character of Scrooge finds a deep personality with a lot of background to create what he eventually became. While the character of Scrooge wasn’t officially created until 1947, one that looked and acted, and even sounded a lot like him appeared in a Donald Duck cartoon from 1943, advising Donald to pay his taxes in order to fight against the Axis powers of World War 2.

    Getting back to my own involvement here before i go entirely in a different direction: the voice industry has been a dream of mine since I was very young. Where I live makes it almost an impossibility to get there, though, and my dreams were pushed to the backburner, until a few years ago, when I decided that I needed to be the next person to carry the character of Scrooge McDuck. Hours upon hours of study were put into listening to the voice, examining how the character acted, and reading up on his history to put more of a sense of experience behind the decisions that would have to be made to decide how he would react to different situations. I was creating the character, while working to continue the character that I’d already known for almost thirty years.

    In the end, I got the character down, pat, and I noticed many changes in the voice Alan Young had provided for him through the years. There was a time, where Scrooge would easily go into falsetto fairly often in his speach. As time went on, and particularly in the 2013 remake of the Ducktales video game, the falsetto is gone, almost completely, due to the age of the voice actor. Also, the voice is noticeably aged, as well. At his heart, though, the character is still the same, which is a testament to the respect shown to the character from the actor, himself.

    So, I had the character in mind, and could transform myself into him in the blink of an eye. Where was I supposed to go from there? I needed an agent, and I felt I needed one fast.

    Well, not so fast, because there was no way I would have attained one, at the time, because even though I had one character down, that’s not exactly what an agent wants to find in a client. An agent wants to find someone who can do many things, and while I thought I could do many things, it was a truth that I really probably couldn’t.

    I decided to look for some voice training, again. It had been years since I’d had any official voice training. I’d kept the practices and warm ups going through the years (and I’d bet I’m the only one from my old voice classes who had kept them up), so could already modulate between different pitches sufficiently. But, the voice over industry requires more than just a voice. It requires an ability to act; an ability to jump into different roles and different characters, and diffferent moods depending upon what is called for in a given script situation. Becoming one character wasn’t enough. I needed more.

    Doing some research online led me to contact a voice actor by the name of Bill Farmer. Farmer had worked with the Disney company as an official voice for many roles over the years, and had even worked with Alan Young on a few projects (including recently with the Mickey Mouse Shorts that are being produced currently). In any case, I reached out to him and asked if he could produce my voice reel, so that I might have something that sounded professional to send to an agent, in the hopes of reaching where I wanted to go.

    The first meeting I had with Mr Farmer found me nervous while I used a lousy supervisor headset from a defunct company I once worked for named Savant CCA to communicate with him over a computer. Despite my nerves, and the quality of the microphone, he deemed that I had what it takes, in my voice at least, to be a voice actor, and with some training, he could see me getting into the industry, itself.

    That was great!

    I was stoked to get this started! It was big news for me, as I’d harbored some doubts about my ability. Through training, those doubts have been pushed aside, though and I’ve only grown steadily more solid in the areas of acting since my training with Bill began.

    I’ve even been cast ina few things that may or may not ever see the light of day.

    Now, while I was mostly interested in becoming the next actor to own the character of Scrooge, my chance officially, or most likely, ended with the announcement of the new Ducktales episodes, slated for 2017. The entire cast was being replaced, and since I was not yet in the industry, well, it meant that I missed my chance to take the character for my own.

    Then again, Alan Young was still voicing him in other things that were being produced, so I wasn’t sure.

    My Farmer advised me that Russi Taylor, the actor who played the voices of Minnie Mouse, Hewey, Duey, Louie Duck, and Webby Vanderquack (like, half the cast of Ducktales, right?) had told him that she had not been called in to do any voice work for the new series, as of yet. At the time, I didn’t know that the entire cast had been recast, but I did know that the voicing is done in cartoons, generally, unless it’s a dub over, prior to the cartoons being animated. This gave me some hope that I still had a chance to get myself in there and get the right attention to give me a shot. Farmer agreed. At the very least, I speculated to him, it kept the character of McDuck alive in the public eye for a bit longer, which might allow me to audition for it again, sometime in the future. But before any of that happens, Bill suggested I work on improving my rendition of Donald Duck, which he was surprised at a few times before.

    My reply, I believe, is that the voice actor for Donald is still young enough to be around for a while.

    But, Farmer cautioned to me that things don’t alwayus work out the way we picture them, and my mind was taken back to a certain Dana Hill, whom he had worked with on a series, and had passed away at a very young age.

    In any case, fast forwarding here, my reel is still not made, and there are several factors that go into that. The interest is still there, the passion still strong, and the understanding that this could happen.

    I am comforted in the knowledge that my own teacher didn’t get his big break until around the age that I first contacted him. That was nice to know. Also, there are a number of other voice actors that didn’t get their big break until they were more than forty years old. That’s great news for me, because I’m not there yet. Also, the things I’ve been cast in so far, though, again, they may never see the light of day (some of them have already, but, yeah) have seen good reviews of my work in them. This is something I can do, which makes me happy, and something I will continue to do in my search for success.

    But one thing that it appears I will never have the chance of doing, myself, at least not in this lifetime, is sit down with the man who gave character to the, uh, well, character I’d grown up idolizing through the years.

    Of course, everyone idolizes Scrooge for his fortune, which ends up being more valuable than probably all the funds in the entire real world added up, but that’s not what I found so interesting about him. There is a passion there, not just for money, but for family, for adventure, for the many small things in his life that he found prescious. Alan Young conveyed those feelings, and actions through great acting, without having to be seen, himself, to be believed. Voice actors are made of great actors, but few have been able to capture such a complex, rounded character, as he. In the characterization provided for McDuck, Alan protrayed a lonely man who couldn’t resist the one true love he’d found in his life. That, alone, echoed my life in such a fitting manner, because, while I would get distracted by other beautfil, possibly shiny things, whenever that one love came around, my attention was devoted entirely to her. And, just like with Scrooge, it was a love that was eventually lost to the throws of distance and time, until I found a love that could accept me for not only my successes, but also my shortcomings.

    Alan, I wish I could have met you, myself. I wish I could have spoken to you about your time with Ed, and Eastwood before Eastwood started talking to invisible people in chairs. I wish I’d had the opportunity to learn about you as well as I’d learned about this character you had given voice to.

    Rest in peace, good man. It was due to the example you had set that I decided that following this path would be fruitful. Your time and efforts will not be forgotten any time soon, and the love you had for the work you performed was evident in every stage.

  13. Back then, everything on TV was good.
    Of course, they had to have talent.
    Modern technology was in black and white.
    Nothing was fake like today.
    Give me TV shows like Mister Ed over glossed-over crap like the Kardashians.
    I want to laugh at real comedy and be entertained by real actors.
    Alan Young was not only real, but great.
    We will miss him.

    George Vreeland Hill

  14. Alan Young was always “Young” at heart; he was a class-act & a talented entertainer. I remember him as the loyal friend of the intrepid time traveler in the 1961 classic film “The Time Machine.” Don’t know what’s going to happen to Hollywood; we’re losing all the classy folks that made American film & television entertainment the envy of the world. Will miss him. Rest In Peace “Wilbur!” Say hello to “Mr. Ed” for me too! ♥

  15. Jack DuBold says:

    Oh Wilbur !! You made a difference ! Rest Easy!

  16. Rosemary(Boyles)Pohl says:

    I met him around 1970-71 in Seattle when he was a Christian Science lecturer….

  17. mikeamo says:

    There are several typos and errors in this story… You also left out a lot about Alan’s amazing radio past. Sirius XM Radio Classics Rob Bell had a fascinating interview with him more than a year ago. Among other roles, I believe Alan was in Jimmy Durante’s supporting cast on radio before his own show. Also, he dated Marilyn Monroe before she became a star. Jim Backus was a supporting member of Alan’s show, and his character translated later to TV as Thurston Howell III. I loved Mister Ed, one of my favorite shows as a kid. RIP Alan Young…what a full and amazing life!

  18. Mjkbk says:

    The sequel to “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” was NOT “Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes”.

    It was “Gentlemem MARRY Brunettes.”

  19. EricJ says:

    Oh, yes–Thank you for mentioning he was “also” Scrooge McDuck and “Time Machine”‘s Philby. Nice that we don’t leave little details like that out.
    I know obits can only mention his two or three most prominent roles, only…which three would YOU have chosen? :)

  20. Bill says:

    No mention of his long time voice work as Jack Allen on the Christian radio drama “Adventures in Odyssey.” :(

    • Yes. It’s puzzling that his long voice work on “Adventures in Odyssey” is not mentioned anywhere in other obituaries. Especially puzzling since he was a regular cast member of this show, voicing the character Jack Allen for 12 years (from 1994-2016). The wikipedia article on Young does mention this in one sentence.
      “After 1994, he played at least eight characters, including antique dealer Jack Allen on the radio drama Adventures in Odyssey.”
      Fore more information do a google search: “alan young” “adventures in odyssey”

  21. 1favored says:

    “a horse is a horse of course unless the horse is Mr. Ed”…one of favorite shows as a kid. Great show. Wilbur was “the man”…Thank you Mr. Alan Young. You will forever be a part of my “best childhood memories”.

    May you rest in peace, Mr. Young.

  22. gabe says:

    uncle scrooge is dead noo

  23. victoriamemorial says:

    A wonderful actor. A very worthwhile career, giving joy to millions.

  24. galaxiefilm says:

    Will never forget him as James Filby, in George Pal’s THE TIME MACHINE.

More TV News from Variety

Loading