07/17/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT
The horse was a horse, of course, but the second banana was a two-legged animal. Today, some 30 years after Mister Ed's four seasons ended in 1965, Vancouver-raised Alan Young recalls how he landed the role as the affable architect Wilbur-r-r Post: "George Burns, who financed the pilot, told the director, 'Get Alan Young. He looks like the kind of guy a horse would talk to.' " But that ignominy pales in comparison with the fate of his equine co-star, a golden palomino named Bamboo Harvester. "Ed was in show business two weeks when they changed his name and castrated him. Happens to many of us," says Young with a laugh.
In truth, Ed, who died in 1973, got star treatment on the show and shared a warm relationship with his human counterpart. When reprimanded by his trainer, "Ed would come right over to me, like, 'Look what he said to me!' " recalls Young. "He had a great personality. Inquisitive and docile. That's what Ed was."
Now 75, Young, who is separated from his wife of 43 years, Virginia, and the father of three grown children, is still doing film (Beverly Hills Cop 3) and voice-over work. On a shelf in the dining room of his Studio City, Calif., condo is the 1950 Best Actor Emmy he won for a pre-Mister Ed series, The Alan Young Show. But centered on his mantel are a pair of even more treasured mementos: two bamboo-colored porcelain horses. "Ed as he was on the show," says Young, "and Ed as a colt."