Found During WWI, Rin Tin Tin Became Hollywood’s Biggest Star

Posted by Christy Caplan
Rin Tin Tin
AP Photo/Edward Kitch

Rin Tin Tin is likely one of the most recognized German Shepherd Dogs of all time. Yet do know you this famous dog's story?

According to a story on Canidae.com,  in the 112-year history of the breed, his bloodline is the oldest continuous line and has remained relatively unchanged over the years. Had it not been for a corporal in the United States Army during WWI, Rin Tin Tin most likely would have perished in France.

Who was Rin Tin Tin?

A corporal in the United States Army during WWI found Rin Tin Tin in France.

Rin Tin Tin was five days old when he and four siblings were found in a bombed-out dog kennel near Lorraine, France in 1918. Corporal Lee Duncan noticed the damaged dog kennel and convinced his battalion to check it out. They found five pups and their mom alive inside, surviving an aerial bombing. Duncan picked a male and female from the litter.

What type of breed was Rin Tin Tin?

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New #dogstars post on letushaveadog.com featuring Rin Tin Tin. If you don’t know who Rin Tin Tin is, you probably also have never heard of Lassie, Snoopy or Scooby Doo. In other words, you’ve been living in a cave for the last 100 years. Rinty’s story starts off in France during World War I, after Corporal Lee Duncan rescued a German Shepherd mother and her pups from a small French village while scouting the location. He brought the dogs back to his unit and after the pups were weaned, gave a few to fellow soldiers and took a male and a female, he named Rin Tin Tin and Nénette, for himself. After returning home to Riverside, California, Lee started thinking that he may have something special in Rin Tin Tin after he witnessed his dog win a leaping contest at a German Shepherd dog show in Los Angeles and seeing his dog filmed in slow motion by acquaintance Charley Jones. Duncan wrote a screenplay for Rin Tin Tin and set off down Sunset Boulevard in hopes of turning his dog into a star. It worked, and Rin Tin Tin became a silent film “Super Star”. It’s even said that Rin Tin Tin received the most votes for the first Academy Award for Best Actor but it was decided that the award should go to a human. Among most people, Rin Tin Tin is most famous for his role in “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” in the 1950’s played by Rin Tin Tin IV, the original Rin Tin Tin died in 1932. Rin Tin Tin’s legacy still lives on today in the form of Rin Tin Tin XII and he even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not bad for a puppy found in a decimated kennel in France during WWI. Yo Rinty! #LUHAD #letushaveadog #letushelpadog #giveadogahome #dogs #dogsrule #dogfamily #dogrescue #dogs4life #dogadoption #dogsarefamily #dearlandlord #dogsofinstagram #shelterdogs #samandtori #adoptdontshop #rintintin #france #worldwarone #germanshepherd #gsd #gsdofinstagram #famousodgs #adventuresofrintintin #hollywood #hollywooddogs #yorinty

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This Hollywood legend was a German Shepherd Dog born into a litter of shepherd puppies during World War I.

An American soldier, Corporal Duncan was impressed with how the German war dogs performed, so he started working with Rin Tin Tin and another puppy to train them to perform just like the dogs he had seen. The German Kennel Master in charge of the kennel where the dogs were found had been captured by the Americans. Duncan went to visit him in the prison camp so he could learn more about the German Shepherd breed.

The 'wonder dog' became a real-life hero.

TV and movie career

This dog (Rin Tin Tin IV) is best known for his career in the television series, 'The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin' -- His TV show was a favorite of all ages. Rin Tin Tin was also a movie star.

Rin Tin Tin began his movie career in 1922. Charles Jones paid Duncan $350 to shoot Rin Tin Tin in action. Afterwards, Duncan decided to pursue a movie career for his dog.

The German Shepard was in a silent film, and he went on to star in 26 movies for Warner Brothers.

Yet it was Rin Tin II that starred in the 'The Adventure of Rin Tin Tin'.

Canidae.com tells us about this dog's protected bloodlines:

There's only one breeder, Rin Tin Tin Incorporated. To protect the integrity of the lineage of Rin Tin Tin, their breeding program is a "closed program." Anyone buying a pup enters into a nonbreeding agreement and their pups must be spayed or neutered.

Duncan groomed Rin Tin Tin IV for the 1950s television series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, but the dog performed poorly in a screen test and was replaced in the TV show by trainer Frank Barnes's dogs, with the public led to believe otherwise. Instead of shooting episodes, Rin Tin Tin IV stayed at home in California. The TV show Rin Tin Tin was nominated for a PATSY Award in 1958 and in 1959, but did not win.

So you likely didn't know that the original Rin Tin Tin wasn't in the famous series! Yet he appeared in many television shows and received more votes in the first year of the Oscars than any human actors. Can you imagine a dog being voted as 'best actor' instead of a human actor in a TV series? I certainly can see this but the academy awards must have felt some pressure as they didn't give him the award to avoid embarrassment.

'Rinty' was his nickname, and we all loved him!

Where is Rin Tin Tin buried?

Rin Tin Tin died in the front yard of his home on August 10, 1932, at the age of 14. His body was returned to France and he was buried in the Cimetiere des Chiens, a famous pet cemetery in the Paris suburb of Asnieres-sur-Seine.

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Found During WWI, Rin Tin Tin Became Hollywood’s Biggest Star