Yo, Rinty!

Reading recommendation as you sit out Hurricane Irene: “The Dog Star,” in the Aug 29 New Yorker tells of the origin and career of Rin Tin Tin and his critical role in the early success of four guys named Warner from Youngstown Ohio. Great stuff!

The original Rin Tin Tin was born on a World War I battlefield in the Meuse Valley of France. He and Nanette, his sister from the litter of five, were rescued by an American GI named Lee Duncan. The dogs got their names from good-luck charms worn by French soldiers. Those charms were named for a pair of lovers who, according to legend, survived the bombing of a Paris railway station at the start of the war.

Rinty got several breaks during his career. Duncan married a wealthy, older woman whose money helped finance things. They ended up divorcing because, the article states, he loved his dogs more. German Shepherd dogs were the coming thing in cinema; a dog named Strongheart had a very successful 1921 film, “The Silent Call.” Rinty made a total of 23 silent films. He eclipsed Strongheart eventually and outlasted many other aspiring dog stars. His first starring role was in a Warner Brothers’ production “Where the North Begins.” Rinty was actually cast as the lead in that flick; he had an ability to portray a variety of emotions, such as anger, love, loyalty, defiance, nobility and so on. He could also climb a tree and jump over 12-foot barriers.

Rinty made four Warner Brothers films in 1927: “A Dog of the Regiment,” “Jaws of Steel,” “Tracked by the Police,” and “Hills of Kentucky.” Warner Brothers was evaluated at $16 million in 1928. In 1930, its value was over $200 million.

The Academy Awards were presented for the first time in 1929. Hollywood legend has it that Rinty received the most votes for Best Actor, but the Academy didn’t think it should give the award to an animal.

The original Rin Tin Tin is obviously not the one we watched on television, continually saving the lives and military careers of Lt. Rip Masters and Corporal Rusty at Fort Apache. That Rinty, whom I once met at the Boston Garden, was probably a grandson or great-grandson. No matter. He was a true member of canine nobility, and he wore his mantle well!

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