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Animals in Movies




An Excerpt from the LA Times newspaper follows – — Los Angeles Times Aug. 2, 1925 and June 25, 1929

Strongheart, born 1917 in Wroclaw, Poland, died June 24, 1929 in Hollywood, was a veteran canine actor, trained in the kennels of the Berlin police department. He had a gallant record of service in the German Red Cross in World War I.

Strongheart’s first picture, “The Silent Call,” met with sensational success. Among his subsequent starring movies were “Brawn of the North,” “The Love Master,” “White Fang” and “North Star.”

The veteran canine actor, especially beloved of children the world over, was the first animal to obtain stardom on the screen. His sensational success was the signal for a mad rush to Hollywood by the masters of his canine brethren.

The name Strongheart was decided upon by the publicity department of the motion-picture studio where the dog first worked. His original name, Etzel Von Oeringen was too long and complicated.

Strongheart has been so well trained in police methods that he can tear the clothing of a person to shreds, knock him about in a terrifying manner, and (for screen purposes) kill him deader than a door nail without leaving a scratch to tell the story.

It is this, together with his wonderfully understanding expression, that makes him so valuable to the movies. Just how valuable only Mrs. Murfin [his owner] knows, but it is estimated that he has earned no less than $2.5 million since entering pictures and his income tax alone in one year was said to be $38,000.

He has made some personal appearances with his pictures, but these have been conducted in a dignified manner befitting the foremost dog in Dogdom.

In 1920, famous animal trainer Larry Trimble and writer Jane Murfin decided to search the world for an unusual dog to bring back to Hollywood to star in some feature films. In Germany they found that dog – Strongheart. The major problem Trimble faced was that, trained as a police dog, Strongheart had not socialized much with human beings. Back in Hollywood, it took Trimble months to train the dog in order to de-emphasize his harsh police dog-style training. Trimble had the dog by his side virtually non-stop for months, continually rewarding him for good behavior. Eventually, Strongheart’s prior police habits were broken as his Libra personality came to the fore, and he was turned into a magnificently trained animal. However, certain aspects of his flat-footed past remained with him: Blessed with great instincts, particularly regarding the moral character of strangers, the dog would track people of dubious morality.

Only two of Strongheart’s films survive today. One copy of The Love Master lies in the Louvre in France and The Return of Boston Blackie is still available for purchase. This latter film was Strongheart’s last.

The famous meeting where Trimble met Strongheart is described by Trimble in his 1926 book, Strongheart – The Wonder Dog. “We had gotten about twenty feet inside the fence when there came a sudden crash of glass and a horrible growl and Strongheart came through a front window, glass and all and was tearing across the lawn at us,” Trimble writes. A competent and experienced trainer, Trimble shouted to his companion, Murfin, to stand still and both Murfin and the German Shepherd Dog complied. Trimble selected Strongheart the German Shepherd Dog to be his canine actor based on this meeting because of this early indication of Strongheart’s uncanny ability to distinguish between people with benevolent and malevolent intentions.

Strongheart weighed an impressive 115lbs. and sometimes as much as 125lbs. but despite his prodigious size, he was possessed of great agility and grace. In fact, after exploding on the Hollywood scene, he would learn the refined manners of high society and dine in the finest of New York City’s restaurants sitting at his own table with his mate, the lovely German Shepherd Dog, Lady Julie, while posing for pictures and being served steak on a platter. A personal manager, valet, press agent and special representative would attend him whenever he toured the country to meet his adoring fans.

His memory lives on today through the works of author and screenwriter J. Allen Boone, a descendant of Daniel Boone, who wrote the famous book Kinship With All Life about his abiding friendship with the dog star. Boone took care of Strongheart for a period in between films and was struck with the dog’s intellect and presence. Strongheart will long be remembered through this book which continues in great popularity since its first printing in 1954. Boone also published Letters to Stongheart and The Language of Silence.

Strongheart and Lady Julie had many puppies together and the Strongheart German Shepherd Dog line survives to this day.


I consider myself to be fortunate in owning a copy of “Kinship with All Life” (a truly amazing unforgettable book, which I recommend to all animal lovers) AND a mint copy of Trimble’s book, “Strongheart The Story of a Wonder Dog” with gorgeous colour picture pages in it which are perforated and can be removed. It was published in 1926 by Max B. Sheffer of Wisconsin, and I will follow the seller’s advice and NOT remove any pictures from the book, which can be taken out and framed!! Sadly, Strongheart died after being burnt on a set, and I always worry over animals being used in movies, for their safety. I think that the treatment of animals in movies has improved though.

Strongheart book

Book – Strongheart the Story of a Wonder Dog

Rest in Peace, wonderful Strongheart !

Rin Tin Tin

The first Rin Tin Tin, a Gemran Shepherd dog, (c. September 10, 1918 – August 10, 1932) was one of a litter of shell-shocked pups found by American serviceman Lee Duncan in a bombed-out dog kennel in Lorraine, then part of the German Empire, less than two months before the end of World War I. When Duncan found him on September 15, he was still blind and nursing.

The two pups from the litter that Duncan kept were named for woollen dolls called Rin Tin Tin and Nénette that French children gave to the American soldiers as good luck charms. Duncan returned to the USA with them at war’s end. Rin Tin Tin settled at his home in Los Angeles, California, though Nénette had died earlier. Rin Tin Tin was a dark sable color and had very dark eyes.

Nicknamed Rinty by his owner, the dog learned tricks and could leap great heights. He was filmed making an 11-foot leap at a dog show by Duncan’s acquaintance Charles Jones, who had just developed a slow-motion camera. Seeing his dog being filmed, Duncan became convinced Rin Tin Tin could become the next Strongheart. He later wrote, “I was so excited over the motion-picture idea that I found myself thinking of it night and day.”

Rin Tin Tin performed in a number of movies, TV serials and countless stage events. He started to gain a lot of popularity in 1920, and even today the latest successor (off-spring) of Rin Tin Tin is in the limelight.

Rin Tin Tin performed in numerous numbers of moving pictures, such as The Man from Hell’s River (1922) Where the North Begins (1923) Shadows of the North (1923) The Lighthouse by the Sea (1924) and many more. He even performed many stunts in several stage shows held in Los Angeles, a long jump of 13 ½ feet amazed a large number of crowd.

Were there other dogs after Rin Tin Tin?

Even after the death of Rin Tin Tin, Lee Duncan trained another German Shepherd Dog who was called Junior Rin Tin Tin in the memory of late Rin Tin Tin but the trainer did not get the same response. His trainer, Lee Duncan died in 1960, and up until his death, trained several other German shepherd dogs in the hope of creating another Rin Tin Tin.

What new movie has been released in Rin Tin Tin’s memory ?

The series of “The adventures of Rin Tin Tin” telecasted during October 1954 to May 1959.

Warner Brothers survived from bankruptcy because of the super hit success of Rin Tin Tin featuring movies. Despite the fact that he died a long time back, he is still in the limelight. In 2006, a new movie featuring Rin Tin Tin “A Living Legacy” has been released to revive the memory of the great Rinty.




Rin Tin Tin was not the first dog actor to appear prominently in movies, but he is the most remembered from the days of old. Susan Orlean has written a book about him: Rin Tin Tin – The Life and Legend. It was published in 2011 and excerpts (parts) of it can be looked at on the Amazon site, by clicking on the image below.

I can’t find out exactly how Rin Tin Tin died, but it looks like it was from “old age” when you look at the years between his birth and his death. Maybe I will find out after I have bought the book!!

Rest in Peace, Rin Tin Tin


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3 thoughts on “Animals in Movies

  1. Nice piece on animal actors. I’ve been wondering about film animals lately, after seeing THE ARTIST (2011).

  2. Thanks for your comment, Steven. I haven’t seen “The Artist” yet but I just watched the trailer and the pooch (Jack Russell) is really cute. I researched him to find his name is Uggie and he was in “Water for Elephants”, a movie that I have watched and really enjoyed. There is an article about Uggie you might be interested in.


  3. Hey, thanks for the article. Interesting read on the career cycle for animals actors. This story on the HBO series LUCK might interest you. It’s slightly on the sadder side though.


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