Rin Tin TinMay 26, 2012 at 4:11 PM | Posted in Books, Dogs | 3 Comments
Tags: Dolls, Lee Duncan, Rin Tin Tin, Susan Orlean
Rin Tin Tin should have been the dog of my youth but I didn’t see dogs then. For me, there was a hierarchy of creation with baseball players at the top and animals at the bottom. Now, as granddogdad to the inimitable Dolls, I find it hard to keep humans at least equal to dogs.
I’ve just listened to Susan Orlean read her delightful and touching Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend. Rinty was a real dog and not, like Lassie, an author’s creation. He was found by Lee Duncan, a U.S. soldier, after a bombing in France in 1918, a young and scared pup huddling next to his sister. Lee brought both back and Rin Tin Tin survived and through luck, happenstance and the ability to leap a 12 foot wall, went on to become one of the greatest movies stars of the Silent Film Era. It is said that he won the first Academy Award for a Male Actor but the award was given to Emil Jennings instead. He was that big.
Rin Tin Tin died in 1932 and there were subsequent actor Rinty’s but none, they say, with the original’s charm. I’ve now seen several of the movies and they are horrible in the usual, human sense. The writing is childish and the acting oafish — except when Rin Tin Tin is on the screen. He combines the athleticism of the greatest, most sleek athlete with the sadness of Hamlet.
Yes, there are people in Orleans’ book and the devoted, ever-dreaming Duncan, who never got over the death of the first Rin Tin Tin is sympathetically and memorably portrayed but it is not them that I think of now. I have in my mind’s eye these pictures of Rin Tin Tin, particularly the middle one, ever faithful.