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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years 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.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs