After World War I Laurence went to war-torn Germany to find his next star and came across a dog who served the German Military has either a Red Cross dog or an attack dog. Laurence purchased this German Shepherd and commented that he “had never played with a child, had never known the fun of retrieving a ball or a stick, had never been petted, in shirt, had never been a dog”. Etzel von Oringen spent months at Laurence”s side being trained,Â socialized, and conditioned.
In 1927 “Strongheart” was born. While Jean played the companion, Strongheart was destined to be an action hero. Strongheart was an instant celebrity. Even though he only starred in 6 films he was the first animal to receive “top billing” (meaning his name was at the top of the screen – even above the title of the film) and was film”s first canine action hero. Entire towns would close when word came out that Strongheart was coming to town. People waited for hours just to hope to get a glimpse, or even meet, this amazing dog movie star. Laurence also marketed Strongheart on many goods from potatoes to dog food to lettuce.
Strongheart starred in 6 films and the only complete film known to exist today is “The Return of Boston Blackie”. All of his other films, like most of Jeans” films, have been lost to time but many photographs from the production of these films have survived.
In 1929 while filming, Strongheart had an accident and fell against a hot stage light. A tumor had formed and Strongheart died on June 24, 1929. After this Laurence never returned to the moving picture industry. Not much is known about his career after but it is said that he spent his life training seeing eye-dogs for the blind.
In 1941 he married Marion Constance Blackton, daughter of Vitagraph Company”s co-owner and co-founder J. Stuart Blackton) and died on February 8, 1954.
Vitagraph Studios was bought by Warner Brothers in 1925.