Connie Hines, rivaled ‘Mr. Ed’ for Wilbur’s attention; at 78

Connie Hines, a native of Dedham, was part of the cast for “Mr. Ed’’ from 1961 to 1966. Connie Hines, a native of Dedham, was part of the cast for “Mr. Ed’’ from 1961 to 1966. (File 1963)
By Keith Thursby
Los Angeles Times / December 23, 2009

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LOS ANGELES - Connie Hines, an actress on the 1960s television show “Mr. Ed,’’ died Friday at her home in Beverly Hills. A native of Dedham, Mass., she was 78.

She portrayed Carol Post, whose husband, Wilbur, was the only person who could converse with Mr. Ed, the eponymous talking horse.

Ms. Hines died of complications of heart problems, said Alan Young, her “Mr. Ed’’ costar.

“I lost a great friend; she was always joyous,’’ Young said.

In the show, which ran from 1961-1966 on CBS, the Posts moved into a rambling country home, only to find a horse in their barn. The center of the show became the banter between Young and Mr. Ed, which left Ms. Hines trying to make the most of her opportunities.

The part was “a tough chore,’’ Young said. “She was a girl married to a fellow listening to a horse. Her biggest line was, ‘Lunch is ready.’ The rest of it was reacting to it. Connie never complained. How many actors would react that way?’’

“Mr. Ed’’ built a new generation of fans with reruns airing on syndication and cable.

“You know we have a whole new audience,’’ Ms. Hines said on “CBS This Morning’’ in 1991. “I still get letters, and now they’re from 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds and it’s just wonderful. People stop me on the street and they say, you know, ‘Thank you for being my baby sitter.’ ’’

Connie Hines was born March 24, 1931. In Young’s 2007 book, “Mr. Ed and Me and More,’’ she wrote a section about her career, describing her childhood in a show business family.

“I was bitten by the bug when I played the part of Mary to my father’s Clarence Day in ‘Life With Father’ onstage in Boston,’’ Ms. Hines wrote.

After her first marriage ended in divorce, she moved to New York.

She got work modeling and in commercials and then landed a romantic leading role in a CBS anthology series “Rendezvous,’’ shot in Europe.

“When I came back to New York, CBS told me I should go to Hollywood and would do well there,’’ Ms. Hines wrote. “So in 1959, with $200 in my pocket and armed with two letters of introduction . . . I flew to Hollywood.’’

She won a role in the 1960 film “Thunder in Carolina,’’ which Ms. Hines called “a forgettable feature . . . about stock car racing,’’ and some episodic television appearances in shows such as “Johnny Ringo’’ and “The Millionaire’’ in 1959 and “Sea Hunt’’ and “Riverboat’’ in 1960. But she got her big break with “Mr. Ed.’’

She did not have a phone in her apartment, so when her agent said the producers were going to call, she waited for the news at a gas station.

“I waited three hours for that call, having coffee after coffee after coffee,’’ she told the Los Angeles Times in 1996.

After “Mr. Ed’’ finished, Ms. Hines worked in television sporadically in such shows as “Medical Center,’’ “The Mod Squad,’’ and “Bonanza.’’

In 1970, she married Lee Savin, an entertainment lawyer and producer.

She hosted a local cable access show about animals, interviewing veterinarians and animal behaviorists and offering animals for adoption.

Young and Ms. Hines performed together in 1996 in Irvine in “Love Letters,’’ which deals with the correspondence of a man and woman over 50 years.

Savin died in 1995.