Arnold Ziffel was a pig featured in Green Acres, an American situation comedy that was produced by Filmways, Inc., and originally aired on the CBS network from 1965 to 1971. The show was premised on rural American humor and featured Oliver Wendell Douglas and his wife Lisa as city-dwellers who move to the unfamiliar environment of Hooterville, a fictional farming community.
Arnold could do pretty much anything he wanted. He was very talented. He could write his name, change the channels on the television, and play the piano. He was an accomplished abstract painter (dubbed "Porky Picasso"), whose work, such as "Nude at a Filling Station," was banned. Arnold also attended school, carrying his lunchbox in his mouth, where he often played practical jokes on the other students. He was once drafted into the U.S. Army and even worked as a "paper pig" delivering newspapers, although he had a bad habit of throwing copies so hard and so badly aimed that he sometimes broke residential windows doing it.
Arnold was also very lucky, winning a trip to Hawaii in one episode, a prize at the Pixley movie theater for having the most original costume (the theater manager said he had the best looking pig costume he'd ever seen), and a trip to Hollywood. After a screen test, he was cast in a role originally intended for a horse, but after the horse explained to Arnold that, without the job, he'd never be able to send his son to Stanford, Arnold's deliberate bad behavior led to his being fired and the horse getting his job back.
Arnold fell in love with Mr. Haney's prized Basset Hound "Cynthia", but in a scene full of pig grunts and dog barks, subtitles explained that they were realizing that their love could never be. Mr. Haney then threatened to sue Mr. Ziffel, claiming that Arnold had ruined Cynthia for show as she had begun to grunt like a pig too.
One storyline had Arnold inheriting millions of dollars as the sole descendant of the favorite pig of a pork-packing magnate, distinguished by his ability to predict the weather with his tail. There was some doubt to the pig's ability when during the claims process for the money, his demonstration predicted snow in the middle of warm weather. This prediction was disbelieved and Oliver found himself in a difficult situation checking out of an expensive hotel because he had to deal with Arnold's expensive bill. However during that difficulty, Arnold's seemingly impossible prediction proved accurate with a freak snowstorm burying the city and thus the hotel welcomed the pig with open arms again.
Behind the scenes
The trainer of Arnold was Frank Inn, who trained virtually all of the animals seen in the rural television comedies of the time period, including Petticoat Junction and Beverly Hillbillies. Arnold won three Patsy Awards for Inn during the 1960s.
Inn died in 2002 and at his request, the ashes of Arnold and of the dog Higgins (who had played "Dog" on Petticoat Junction and had the title role in the 1974 film Benji) were placed in his coffin and buried with him.
Some sources point out that Arnold was actually played by a piglet. Because piglets grow quickly as they become adult pigs, this would require that at least one piglet per year had to be trained for the role of Arnold during the seven years that the show was in production.
In most episodes, Arnold was played by a female piglet.
Influence on popular culture
A popular urban legend circulated during the era of the show's greatest popularity to the effect that the cast and crew of Green Acres ate Arnold. The story is false, however it persisted long after Green Acres went off the air; moreover, as noted above, there was more than one Arnold.
In the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, the character Jules (played by Samuel L. Jackson) refers to Arnold, saying a pig would have to be "ten times more charming" than Arnold for him to cease considering it a filthy animal.
The 1995 theatrical film Gordy was originally conceived in the early 1970s by Green Acres creator Jay Sommers and writer Dick Chevillat as a vehicle for the Arnold Ziffel character. Both are given writing credit for the film, although Sommers had died some ten years before the release of Gordy.