Over the years there have been many Dogs who have shared the spotlight both on the silver screen as well as television. To name a few, Toto from the Wizard of Oz, Lassie, Old Yeller, Beethoven, Pete from The Little Rascals which shared both medias. TV dogs include Eddie from Frasier, Zeus & Apollo from Magnum PI, Fang from Colombo and the list goes on. This is a series of articles that will delve into the Animals stars over the decades beginning with “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin”.
A Children’s Program – The Story first aired on ABC television in 1954 and ran until 1959. It was the story of a young boy, Rusty, played by Lee Aaker who was orphaned when the wagon train his parent was traveling in was attacked by Indians. Rusty survived the attack as did his dog. When found by the soldiers from a nearby Calvary post they took to raising the boy. During the series Rusty and his dog helped to establish order in the Old West. What a show, every week a new adventure filled with drama, intrigue, danger and always a happy ending. Reruns of the show ran on CBS throughout the 70″s clear up into the mid-1980’s.
It wasn’t until years later that I was to learn his career dated back to 1922. He first appeared in a silent film. Lets take a deeper look into the origin of this Famous K-9. To do this we must go back even further. During WWI an American serviceman Lee Duncan on tour in Lorraine France stumbled onto a bombed-out dog kennel where he found a shell-shocked pup. Duncan kept the pup and named it after a puppet called Rintintin. This was a name that the French children gave to American soldiers for good luck. It was less then 2 months and the war ended. Duncan returned to his home in Los Angles and took his new pup with him. Duncan nicknamed the dog Rinty and taught him many trick and Rinty learned to leap great heights. While performing in a dog show, Charles Jones saw him and became impressed, he was convinced that Rin Tin Tin was destined to be a star. He paid Duncan to film him. Playing a wolf in “The Man From Hell’s Rive (1922). Throughout his career he would be cast as a wolf or wolf-hybrid many times even though he did not look like one. His big break came in 1923 when he was cast with silent screen start in Claire Adams in “Where the North Begins”. This film was a success, some say that it saved Warner Brothers from filing bankruptcy but no matter the dogs career was launched. Appearing in such greats as “Shadows of the North (1923)”, “Clash of the Wolves (1925)”, “A Dog of the Regiment (1927)”, and “Tiger Rose (1929)”. Appearing mostly silen films he did however appear in four talkies including “The Lost Warrior (1931) staring Franki Darro.
Transcending the Big Screen, a radio show called “The Dog Wonder” began airing in 1930. He would do his own sound effects until his death in 1932 when jr. took over for his father. The title of the show was changed and starred Don Amedhe and Junior McLain. Between 1930 and 1935 there would be three different radio series. The final radio series would be broadcast from January 2, 1955 to December 25, 1955 a 30-minute program heard Sundays at 5:00 p.m. Sponsored by Milk Bone and Shredded Wheat this radio series also stared Lee Aker as Rusty, James Brown as Lt. Rip Masters and Joe Sawyer as Sgt. Biff O’Hara featuring the adventures of Rin Tin Tin with the 101st Cavalry.
In 1932 the He died in the arms of Actress Jean Harlow. Legend has it that His owner arranged to return to his birth place for burial in the renowned pet cemetery Cimetière des Chiens, He was 14 years old.
His successor Rinty Jr. would appear in several short films during the 1930’s. He would also appeared “The Adventures of Rex and Rinty as 12 part serial and he voiced the party of Rinty in Silencil radio shows produced in that era.
Rinty the III followed in his Fathers Pawsteps staring in the 1947 Movie “The Return of Rin Tin Tin. Starring in this movie also was a very young Robert Blade who was to later 1975 star in the Television series Barretta in which he kept a Parrot as a pet.
In the television series Rinty the IV was the lead dog. However a dog named J.R. did some of the work. Also another dog called “Hey you” would do some appearances. Hey You was a line of dogs breed by Duncan they were much lighter in color but had very similar stances and mannerisms.
As a tribute to his status as a true stardom he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1623 Vine St, In Hollywood, Ca.
Lee Duncan died in 1960 but the Blood line lives on through Jannettia Propp who had purchased several direct descendants for Lee Duncan, who’s Granddaughter Daphne Hereford continues the legacy. The Current Rin Tin Tin is the tenth from the original he continues to make personal appearances to promote responsible pet ownership.