Strongheart (Etzel Von Oeringen – Oct 1 1917 – June 24, 1929) is credited for being one of the first canine film stars. He was initially trained in Germany as a police dog he was later brought into the United States by film makers Laurence Trimble and Jane Murfin. Having successfully made the first film star dog, the Vitagraph Dog, Strongheart was able to appear in several films includng the 1925 adaptation of White Fang.
A popular celebrity in his day, Strongheart paved the way for the much better remembered Rin Tin Tin. Strongheart and his mate, Lady Jule, had many offspring and their line survives to this day. In 1929, while being filmed for a movie, Strongheart accidentally made contact with a hot studio light and was burned. These burns caused a tumor to form and Strongheart died as a result of it.
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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).
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What dog actor site would be complete without Lassie? I don’t think there is another dog who has spawned off more TV shows, movies, and other publications than the popular collie. Not only that, there isn’t a more recognizable breed or individual animal other than Lassie (not including fictional animals like Mickey Mouse).
Author Erik Knight first created in the short story “Lassie Come Home” that was featured in the Saturday Evening post back in 1938. Two years later “Lassie Come Home” was a published novel. Only three years later, in 1943, it was made into a movie which became an instant hit (it was re-made in 2005 also). In 1945 a sequel came out, “The Son of Lassie” and the following year “The Courage of Lassie” came out.
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