- Gone to the Dogs?
There is no question that people in America love dogs. One look at popular culture in our country will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Americans have a love affair with dogs. Movies and TV shows about dogs go in and out of popularity and stories like Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows are considered timeless classics. Only in America, however, do dogs manage to achieve celebrity status.
Rin Tin Tin
Rin Tin Tin was Hollywood's first recognizable canine star. The German Shepherd was featured in 26 films for Warner Brothers Pictures and is generally credited with having saved the studio from bankruptcy during the silent film era. The original Rin Tin Tin died in 1932 at the age of 13, but his bloodline and his fan club exist to this day.
Ask someone to name a famous dog and you will probably get the name Lassie every time. The star of several television series, many movies, and the subject of countless books, Lassie is probably the most recognizable canine star in American TV and movie history.
Interestingly, all of the dogs to portray Lassie over the years have been male. The original collie to portray Lassie was actually named Lad and was the star of the memorable original television series as well as several movies, most memorably the original version of Lassie Come Home.
In the 1970's a would-be filmmaker named Joe Camp started pitching a
"dog movie" around Hollywood. He was told repeatedly that the film would never work, so he decided to produce the film independently. Once the film wrapped Camp had new troubles because no distribution company would release the film. Again, Camp relied upon himself to distribute his family movie worldwide.
Camp's gamble paid off and Benji, starring a lovable mixed breed dog that was adopted from an animal shelter (the original Benji was the dog Higgins who had worked on the TV show Petticoat Junction) became a huge hit. Over the years there have been five Benji movies, television programs and specials, comics, and a ton of Benji merchandise.
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