Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Today in Canine History-The Discovery of a Superstar

In 1918, somewhere around this time (the exact date is disputed), a litter of five homeless German Shepherd pups, and their scrawny mother, where discovered by US army Corporal Duncan Lee and his battalion in a bombed out dog kennel in Lorraine, France.  Lee took one of the pups and named him Rin Tin Tin  after a puppet popular with french children.  Less then two months later WWI came to an end and Duncan took Rin Tin Tin, or Rinty as he called him, back home to the Los Angeles, California.

Lee spent a great deal of time teaching the dog tricks and Rinty was apparently a natural at performing, impressing dog show attendees with his tricks.  Film making and cameras where the new thing and Lee was convinced that his dog could become a star, and he was right!  In 1922 Rinty got his big break playing a wolf in The Man From Hell's River.  He followed that with a starring role in Where the North Begins  in which he plays a wolf-dog faced with the either staying with the wild wolves who raised him or becoming the companion of man.  The movie was so successful that is credited with saving Warner Bros. from bankruptcy.   Numerous other roles followed and Rin Tin Tin became the first real canine movie superstar.

Rin Tin Tin lived to the good, relatively, old age of 14 and as befits any film legend there are several rumors about his death.  The popular story is that he died in the arms of Jean Harlow, which is perhaps a little hard to believe.

Hollywood loves a sequel and Rin Tin Tin spawned a succession of accomplished dogs. Rin Tin Tin Jr appeared in several movies in the 1930s and Rin Tin Tin Jr. the third helped  Duncan Lee train dogs for the first US Military canine corps.  In the 1950s Rin Tin Tin the fourth starred in a series of successful films  such as, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.  Today Rin Tin Tin the 12th travels around the country attending events.   On September 7, 2011  he rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange when the American Humane Association honored the 300 canines who helped in the recovery efforts at ground zero in September of 2001.  

For everyone who wants to learn more about a fascinating canine Susan Orlean's definitive biography of Rin Tin Tin, Rin Tin Tin-The Life and The Legend
will be out September 27. I can't wait.

Here is a clip of the original Rinty's last film


  1. I didn't know Rin Tin Tin rang the bell at the Stock Exchange. How cool is that? Wait until I tell my boys--Thanks for sharing!