Family & Companions
An amiable comedy player of radio, film and television, Alan Young won an Emmy starring in his own CBS show in the early 1950s, but will forever be remembered as Wilbur Post, the quiet, married fellow whose confidant and best buddy was a talking horse named "Mr. Ed" (1961-65). Young was born in the North Country of England, but moved to Canada with his family when he was seven years old. By age 13, he was performing comedy monologues on stage and spent most of the 30s and early 40s on radio, both in Canada and the US. After serving in the Canadian Navy during World War II, Young migrated to Hollywood, where he made his feature film debut in "Margie" (1946), in which he was a teenager in the Roaring 20s. Supporting roles in "Chicken Every Sunday" and "Mr. Belvedere Goes to College" (both 1949) did not raise his screen profile, so, in 1950, he turned to TV with "The Alan Young Show" (CBS), in which he performed a monologue, sang a song or two, and became involved in a lightly handled predicament or problem--not dissimilar from the formats of other comedians like Jack Benny and Burns and Allen. When Young won his Emmy, there was a slight controversy. At the time, there was only one performance category for actors, with variety performers, comic actors and tragedians all mixed together. Young was so heralded that year, he even topped Jose Ferrer, much to the consternation of those who felt (and feel) that drama was more prestigious. His small screen success meant another shot at feature films. Young was cast as a country bumpkin courting Dinah Shore in "Aaron Slick From Punkin Crick" (1952), a box office and critical disaster--even Dinah Shore would later credit it with ruining any chances of a screen career for herself. Yet, Young bounced back with the title role in "Androcles and the Lion" (1953), which also failed to attract audiences. In the summer of 1954, Young hosted "Saturday Night Revue," a replacement series for the vacationing "Your Show of Shows" on NBC. For the remainder of the 50s, Young made guest appearances on TV series. He did have one screen success playing Woody the Piper in the well-received children's film "Tom Thumb" (1958). While his career seemed to be stalled, in 1960 he was asked to step in and replace the original lead in the series "The Wonderful World of Wilbur Post." Producers had felt there was no chemistry between the first actor and his co-star, a palomino horse. Perhaps the horse had a better agent because when the series went on the air in January 1961, the series was called "Mr. Ed," despite Young's star billing. Young and the horse worked well together. The premise of the show owed much to the successful Francis the talking mule films: the palomino Ed would only talk to Wilbur and he was sassy, irascible, and did what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it--usually necessitating the Wilbur help him to get him out of a jam. The show premiered as a syndicated series before moving to CBS in October 1961, one of the few instances in TV history of a show going from syndication to a network. It ran as a ratings favorite until 1965. One would expect that Young would have had his pick of work, but he chose instead to work for his beloved Christian Science Church, heading its film and broadcasting department. He severed most ties with Hollywood, rarely being heard from or about. Yet, occasionally, he would make an appearance back in front of the cameras, such as in "Baker's Hawk" (1976) and Disney's "The Cat From Outer Space" (1978). Young even showed up on "The Love Boat" in 1983 and "Murder, She Wrote" in 1986. He even had a short-term role on ABC's popular soap opera "General Hospital." Additionally, Young began a secondary career as a voice actor. He was the kidnapped toymaker Flaversham, complete with Scottish brogue in "The Great Mouse Detective" (1986) and Scrooge McDuck in both "Mickey's Christmas Carol" (1983) and "Ducktales: The Movie" (1990). Young also could be heard on Saturday mornings in "Scruffy," "The Smurfs" and other series. He briefly returned to series TV with the unsuccessful sitcom "Coming of Age" (CBS, 1988-89), about the residents of a retirement community. In 1994, Young made a return to feature films playing Uncle Dave, the character whose theme park and life Eddie Murphy must save in "Beverly Hills Cop III" and that same year appeared with Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner in the NBC reunion telefilm "Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Hart Is." His final screen role of note came in the family film "Em and Me" (2004). Alan Young died of unspecified natural causes at his home in Woodland Hills, California on May 19, 2016. He was 96.
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Moved to Canada with family (date approximate)
Made his debut as comedy monologist
Film acting debut in "Margie"
Starred with Dinah Shore in the disastrous "Aaron Slick From Punkin Creek"
Hosted "Saturday Night Revue" (NBC)
Returned to series TV in "Coming of Age" (CBS)
Returned to feature films co-starring in "Beverly Hills Cop III"
Starred in an L.A. stage production of "You Can't Take It With You"
Had lead role in the independent feature "Em & Me"; former "Mr. Ed" co-star Connie Hines also appears in film