September 11, 2015 | Posted in Famous TV & Movie Dogs


Rin Tin Tin 1929

The story of Rin Tin Tin begins in a bombed out dog kennel in Lorraine, France during WWI. History records the date as September 15th, 1918. But unlike other dogs that began their path to fame during the two wars and contributed in the war, Rin Tin Tin is chiefly remembered as a celluloid idol.

This male German Shepherd, owned by Corporal Lee Duncan, the person who rescued him, appeared in no less than twenty seven silent films. And such was his popularity that in 1929, when the votes were cast to pick the best actor for the first Oscar Awards, Rin Tin Tin polled the most votes. During his heyday, Rinty was a much sought after and a very bankable star. According to Hollywood legend, Warner Bros. owes its survival and subsequent profits to the films that Rin Tin Tin acted in. And expectedly, Rinty was also the face of a slew of pet products including Ken-L Ration, Ken-L-Biskit, and Pup-E-Crumbles.

For many Americans even today, the fact that Rin Tin Tin was a real flesh and blood dog and not just a television character comes as a pleasant surprise. Rin Tin Tin made his Hollywood debut playing bit parts, usually those of wolf. His first film was The Man from Hell’s River, which was released in 1922. Studios found it easier to work with the dog rather than with real wolves. His training under Duncan stood Rinty in good stead and he would follow commands easily. Film historians credit Duncan’s persistent faith in his pet’s ability to come good in front of the camera for the animal’s subsequent stardom.

Off camera, ol’ Rinty led an active life as well. One of his many claims to fame is that he sired 48 puppies with Nanette. Greta Garbo was among the many celebrities that took pride in being pet parents to German Shepherds descended from Rin Tin Tin. It is a matter of record that the interest in the breed shot up in America after Rin Tin Tin became popular.

Rin Tin Tin and his master did face a few ups and downs, the Great Depression affected Duncan financially but Rin Tin Tin was a doughty old customer. Rin Tin Tin was lost to the world in 1932, he is buried at the Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques in France, the country where it all began for him.

All in all, it was an interesting life for the animal whose legacy endures till today in the form of Rin Tin Tin XII, who is regarded as having descended from the original hero. One wonders what Rin Tin Tin made of being given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or finding a mention in Anne Frank’s diary. The story of Rin Tin Tin has taken proportions of myth, thanks in no little measure to media and Hollywood, and will continue to do so because it has all the elements of a Hollywood adventure yarn, with our dog being the canine Errol Flynn.