Tuesday, November 01, 2011

More Rin-Tin-Tin, Behind the Scenes

Susan Orlean's fascinating biography of Rin-Tin-Tin does raise an interesting question: was the multi-talented dog an amazing animal actor, able to portray a wide range of emotions for the camera, or were there in fact a number of "Rin Tin Tins." She does quote Jack Warner admitting in a 1965 interview with the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner that the studio encouraged Lee Duncan to breed doubles for Rinty in case the star was injured or killed. Eventually there were 18 Rin Tin Tins and Warner said in the interview, "Each animal was a specialist. One was used for attack scenes, another was trained to jump twelve-foot walls, a third was a gentle house dog, and so on."

This was certainly the case and I can add a more personal note. My mother, Mary Louise Miller, was the baby actress who worked with Rin Tin Tin in two movies, The Night Cry and Jaws of Steel. In both films, the scenes she shared with Rinty were definitely played with the gentle house dog. This was the Rinty with the dark, liquid eyes, staring soulfully at the toddler, feeding her the bottle, allowing her to play with his ears, or placing his head lovingly on her bed pillow.

So yes, there were many animals answering to the name of Rin Tin Tin, but the legend of that amazing dog continues to this day. And it was certainly true when Jack Warner called Rin Tin Tin "the mortgage-lifter." The dog's world-wide popularity certainly pulled Warner Bros. Studios out of the red in the 1920s.

Do check out Susan Orlean's Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, it's a great read -- especially for all those dog-lovers out there!

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