News / USA

'Rin Tin Tin' Recounts Dog's Rise to Stardom

Animal became US star after rescue from French battlefield

Multimedia

Audio
Mike O'Sullivan

Rin Tin Tin, a dog rescued from a World War I battlefield in France, became a famous animal star and hero for generations of children.

"Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend" looks into the life of the dog that because a huge US star after being rescued from a French battlefield.

Susan Orlean, author of "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend," has vivid memories of the German Shepherd from her 1950s childhood, when the animal performed daring rescues on a television series.

But as she prepared a magazine story on animals in film, she discovered a surprising fact about the canine actor.

“What I had thought was a 1950s television character had been a real dog with an extraordinary life story,” Orlean says.

She learned the real story began in 1918, when an American army corporal named Lee Duncan rescued two puppies from a bombed-out kennel in France. He named them Nanette and Rin Tin Tin, after the dolls French children gave American soldiers for good luck.



After the war, Duncan brought the dogs back to his California home. Nanette died of pneumonia soon afterwards, while Rin Tin Tin settled in with Duncan.

One of Duncan’s friends, who'd developed a slow-motion movie camera, filmed Rin Tin Tin making a spectacular leap over a three-and-a-half meter tall fence.

Duncan's friend sold the film to the newsreel company, Novagraph, according to Orlean.

Susan Orlean, author of the book
Susan Orlean, author of the book "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend"

“Lee knew nothing about it," she says. "All he knew was that a few weeks after the dog show, he got a check in the mail from Novagraph for this footage of Rin Tin Tin. That was the moment where he thought, 'Wow, maybe there is something to this. Maybe my dog could be in movies.'”

Rin Tin Tin broke into show business in 1922, playing the role of a wolf in the silent film "The Man from Hell’s River." He went on to star in more than two dozen films, earning a higher salary than his human costars.

Like many stars of the silent film era, Rin Tin Tin’s career began to fade after talking films arrived in the late 1920s, but he and his descendants continued to perform in low-budget films and on radio. The TV shows Orlean watched as a child in the 1950s featured Rin Tin Tin II in a series set in the Old West.

Rin Tin Tin also played a special role in World War II, when the U.S. War Department saw the need for a K-9 Corps and recruited dogs to carry messages, stand guard duty and sniff out landmines.

“Where do you find 300,000 adult dogs? You turn to the public, and you ask them to donate their dogs," Orlean says. "So the dogs that participated in World War II were people's pets.”

Rin Tin Tin became a mascot for the military effort.

Orlean says animal heroes like Rin Tin Tin have something to teach us because they display virtues admired by people around the world.

One of Rin Tin Tin's descendants serves as an ambassador for the American Humane Association's Hero Dog Awards, which honor dogs that help people in need.
One of Rin Tin Tin's descendants serves as an ambassador for the American Humane Association's Hero Dog Awards, which honor dogs that help people in need.

“Loyalty, bravery, sympathy, empathy and steadfastness that is appealing to people everywhere and doesn't have a kind of national identity. Rin Tin Tin was uniquely that way. He was a German breed of dog, born on a battlefield in France, but became a star in America.”

And the most famous dog in the world.

Rin Tin Tin sired at least 44 puppies and has thousands of descendents. A family in Texas is carrying on the legacy, by still breeding his offspring.

Some of them perform and others have been trained for public service, including work as rescue dogs and therapy animals for children with autism.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs