American television lost a comedy, acting and voice acting pioneer on Thursday, when Alan Young passed away at the age of 96. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the man most widely known for playing opposite a talking horse in the popular ’60s sitcom Mister Ed died of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif. — a Hollywood retirement community where he’d been living for several years.
A show as irreverent as it was funny, Mister Ed ran from 1958 to 1966, but Young didn’t join the regular cast as Wilbur Post until 1961. He played the titular talking horse’s owner, friend and confidant for six years running. A decade earlier, however, the then-thirtysomething actor starred in and hosted his own variety program on CBS, The Alan Young Show, which scored the young performer his first and only Primetime Emmy Award nomination and win.
Despite the award, Young’s fame exploded with the success of Mister Ed throughout the mid-to-late ’60s and subsequent decades thanks to the show’s popularity in syndication. The man best known as Wilbur would inadvertently become the bumbling face of slapstick for several generations of television viewers who tuned in regularly to watch the talking horse’s latest feats.
Young even endeared himself to the show’s mythology when, encouraged by producers’ desire to keep the show’s special effects a secret, he first started the rumor that the horse’s lips were made to move by putting peanut butter on the animal’s gums. Turns out it was actually a piece of nylon thread that was manipulated by someone off camera.
Yet the aging actor found himself quickly becoming the voice of an even younger generation’s childhood when he created the voice for Scrooge McDuck, the miser uncle of Disney’s Donald Duck and great-uncle to Huey, Dewey, and Louie on the late ’80s phenomenon DuckTales. So whenever Uncle Scrooge was just about to drop his latest financial ruin-based rant about a lost batch of ice cream, audiences were actually listening to Young’s spectacular voice work.
(Via the Hollywood Reporter)