The original Rin Tin Tin (B. September 10, 1918 – D. August 10, 1932) was found by an American serviceman, Lee Duncan, in a bombed out dog kennel in Lorraine, France (WWI) less then two months before the end of the war. He was named after a puppet, Rintintin, that was given to the servicemen as good luck.
He was first “discovered” by producer Charles Jones who was convinced he could easily become the next dog star. Rin Tin Tin’s first big break was in the 1922 film “The Man From Hell’s River ” where he played a wolf. Rinty would play a wolf of a wolf hybrid often in his career, even though he didn’t look like either. His first starring role was in 1923’s Where The North Begins, playing alongside silent screen actress Claire Adams. This film was a huge success and has often been credited with saving Warner Brothers from bankruptcy. It was followed by Shadows of the North (1923), Clash of the Wolves (1925), A Dog of the Regiment (1927), and Tiger Rose (1929).
Between 1930 and 1955, “Rin Tin Tin” (though not always portrayed by the original dog) was heard in three different radio series, beginning April 5, 1930 with The Wonder Dog, in which the original Rin Tin Tin did his own sound effects until his death in 1932, when Rin Tin Tin, Jr. took over. This 15-minute program was broadcast Saturdays on the Blue Network at 8:15 p.m. until March 1931 when it moved to Thursdays at 8:15 pm.
In September 1930, the title changed from The Wonder Dog to Rin Tin Tin. Don Ameche and Junior McLain starred in the series, which ended June 8, 1933. With Ken-L Ration as a sponsor, the series continued on CBS from October 5, 1933 until May 20, 1934, airing Sundays at 7:45 pm.
The final radio series was broadcast on Mutual from January 2, 1955 to December 25, 1955 a 30-minute program heard Sundays at 5:00 p.m. Sponsored by National Biscuit for Shredded Wheat and Milk-Bone, the series featured Rin Tin Tin’s adventures with the 101st Cavalry. The show starred Lee Aaker (born 1943) as Rusty, James Brown (1920-1992) as Lieutenant Ripley “Rip” Masters and Joe Sawyer (1906-1982) as Sergeant Biff O’Hara.
Following Rin Tin Tin’s death in 1932 in Los Angeles (in the arms of actress Jean Harlow, according to Hollywood legend), his owner arranged to have the dog returned to his country of birth for burial in the Cimetière des Chiens, the renowned pet cemetery in the Parisian suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine. He was 14 years old. “Rin Tin Tin” was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1623 Vine St.
Rin Tin Tin Jr appeared in the 1930’s 12 part serial “The Adventures of Rex and Rinty”. In 1947 Rin Tin Tin III starred opposite Robert Blake in the film, “The Return of Rin Tin Tin”.
From October 1954 to May 1959 ABC aired the TV series “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” starring Rin Tin Tin IV (although some work was done by descendants of the original Rin Tin TIn, J.R. and Hey You). In 1960 Jannetta Brodsgaard Propps purchased several descendants of the initial Rin tin Tin to keep the heritage alive and it is continued on today with her granddaughter, Daphnie Hereford and the El Rancho Rin Tin Tin kennel in Latexo, TX.
Today, many of Rin Tin Tin’s descendants are trained as service dogs for troubled children.