The Companion Animals

Rin Tin Tin

The televised Adventures of Rin Tin Tin debuted the same year as Lassie (1954), and the two shows shared a striking number of characteristics. The adventures of the German shepherd, however, were considerably shorter lived than those of his collie counterpart. We might be tempted to argue feminine dominance if only most of the Lassies had actually been female.

Rin Tin Tin in real life was a dog that was rescued from a battlefield in France in World I by an American soldier named Lee Duncan. Duncan trained the dog and found work for him in silent movies. He was an immediate box-office success and went on to appear in 27 Hollywood films.

The original Rin Tin Tin died in 1932 and several of his progeny spectacularly failed to follow in his footsteps. Rin Tin Tin IV was groomed for the television series, but failed his screen test and was replaced by one of the dog trainer Frank Barnes's dogs.

The television program lasted from 1954 to just 1959. If you compare the opening and closing credits of The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (here) with those for Lassie (below), you'll understand why.



Lassie was the creation of producer Robert Maxwell and animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax. It aired from September 12, 1954 to March 25, 1973, making it the 5th longest-running U.S. primetime tv series (after The Simpsons, Law & Order: SVU, Gunsmoke, and Law & Order).

The show received critical favor at its debut and won two Emmy Awards in its first years. Stars Jan Clayton and June Lockhart both were nominated for Emmys.

The video clip below shows both the opening and closing credits and includes a cameo appearance by the Lone Ranger. Gotta admit, this still tugs at the heartstrings.


Mister Ed

The series Mister Ed debuted in syndication in January of our graduation year and, after moving to CBS the following season, ran until February, 1966.

Director Arthur Lubin wanted to create a television show from the Francis the Talking Mules series of films but couldn't secure the rights, so he turned to a series of short stories written for children by Walter R. Brooks about "The Talking Horse" which first appeared in the Septer 18, 1937 issue of Liberty magazine.

Mister Ed's ability to talk was never explained and rarely considered on the show. In the first episode, when Wilbur expresses an inability to understand the situation, Mister Ed offers the show's only comment on the subject: "Don't try. It's bigger than both of us."

In the clip below, Mister Ed meets the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking a turn at bat against Sandy Koufax and impressing manager Leo Durocher: