Jean, a.k.a. “The Vitagraph Dog” is credited for being the first dog actor in the USA.
While working on an article about a new technology called “moving pictures”, 19 year old Laurence Trimble found himself in the Vitagraph Studios production facility watching Florence Turner (a.k.a. “the Vitagraph girl”) star in a film. The director needed a dog to play opposite Florence and Laurence just happened to have his border collie, Jean, with him.
Little did any of them know this seemingly small decision was going to set the foundation for dogs in movies for the next 100+ years. Jean was such a hit with the fans that she starred in 18-20 short films (some uncredited like “A Sailor’s Sacrifice” and “A Tin-Type Romance”) in a short 3 year career. In her career Jean played a companion and beloved pet by some of the most well-known movie stars in Vitagraph’s studios. Sadly, very few films of Jean have survived the times. So far, only “A Sailor’s Sacrifice” and “A Tin-Type Romance” are known to still exist today.
In 1913 Laurence moved to England to start his own movie production company but his plans were cut short by the outbreak of World War I in 1916. Laurence moved back to the USA but sadly Jean died in 1916. While Laurence and Vitagraph did try to continue Jean’s legacy with Shep, he never gained the popularity that Jean had.