The voice of Mister Ed appeared on Gunsmoke in some of his final screen roles
Can you picture this cavalry captain saying, "Wilbur!?"
The early years of Allan Lane remain somewhat shrouded in mystery. The Western B-movie star was a native of Mishawaka, Indiana, a stone's throw from South Bend. Some of his biographies claim he played football while attending nearby Notre Dame University. However, some contest this fact and claim it was something whipped up by his studio or agent, while the book Shooting Stars of the Small Screen: Encyclopedia of TV Western Actors reports that Lane dropped out of the school.
What we do know about Allan "Rocky" Lane is his storied screen career. He was a legendary cowboy — and an iconic horse.
Throughout the 1930s, Lane appeared in various genre pictures, from spy fare (They Made Her a Spy) to boxing flicks (The Duke Comes Back) to musicals (Sing and Be Happy). Following World War II, Lane settled into the Wild West, largely thanks to a breakout role as a comics hero.
The adventures of Red Ryder began in the newspaper funny pages. The Western comic strip followed the adventures of the tough, good-hearted cowboy and his horse Thunder in the 1890s. Most folks are familiar with the character thanks to the perennially played holiday classic A Christmas Story — Ralphie fantasizes about getting a Red Ryder pellet gun.
Red Ryder came to life on the radio and in film serials. When Lane assumed the role in Santa Fe Uprising in 1946, he was taking over the role after Don "Red" Barry and Wild Bill Elliott had previously portrayed the character. Now those are cowboy names.
Lane saddled up as Red Ryder in seven movies in the span of about a year. Hollywood cranked them out in those days.
In the subsequent years, the star typically played a fantastic version of himself, Rocky Lane. He was Deputy Sheriff Rocky Lane, U.S. Marshal Rocky Lane, Lt. Rocky Lane.
By the mid-'50s, the lead roles were drying up. In the twilight of his career, Lane became an occasional face on television, turning up in an episode of Wagon Train here and Alfred Hitchcock Presents there.
At just three guest appearances, Gunsmoke was his most frequented show. He was a headstrong trail boss in "Texas Cowboys" (1958). In 1960, he popped up again in "The Badge."
Then, in the spring of 1961, Lane made his final two appearances on-screen. He slipped into a cavalry uniform to play Capt. Graves (pictured up top) in the Gunsmoke tale "Long Hours, Short Pay." It was his last meaty role, of sorts. A few days later, Lane had a small part as a sheriff on Cheyenne in "Massacre at Gunsight Pass."
That was the last time audiences saw Allan Lane acting — but it would certainly not be the last time they would hear him.
Form 1961–66, Lane provided the voice to Mister Ed. Millions of kids would emulate his "Wilbur!"
When you catch him on Gunsmoke, try to hear a little of that talking horse in his performance.