Lassie, a dog, is a
fictional characterthat has starred in, or been the subject of, many radio shows, movies, TV shows, and books, entertaining generations of children around the world from 1938to the present.
The character of Lassie was created by British-American author
Eric Knightin the short story"Lassie Come-Home" published in the " Saturday Evening Post" in 1938 and as the novel"Lassie Come-Home" in 1940.In Knight's story set in Depression-era England, a young Yorkshireboy owns an exceptionally beautiful and loyal collie (described as mahogany and sable in color), but when the family faces severe economic hardship, the dog is sold to a wealthy nobleman. Both boy and dog grieve over the separation, made worse when the new owner transports Lassie hundreds of miles away to his estate in Scotland. However, the collie's instinct and courage cause her to escape, and the book follows Lassie's desperate efforts to return to the boy she loves.
In 1943, the book was made into the first Lassie movie, "
Lassie Come Home", which generally followed the plot of the book, and which starred Roddy McDowalland Elizabeth Taylor. The movie was a hit and enjoyed favorable critical response. [cite journal | author= Review | title=Lassie Come Home | journal=Variety | date= January 1, 1943| volume= | issue= | pages= | url=http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117792448.html ]
MGM followed its success with more movies in the 1940s featuring the canine hero: In
1945, " Son of Lassie" premiered, starring Peter Lawfordand June Lockhart. The next year, 1946, " Courage of Lassie" premiered (with Elizabeth Taylor, from the first film), and the "Lassie Radio Show" began (aired until 1949).
Between 1954-1973, the television series, "Lassie" was broadcast in the U.S. Unlike the novel and films which were set in Britain, the American television series brought Lassie to a weatherbeaten farm in the American midwest and teamed her for the show's first ten seasons with boys and then for its following seasons with adult forestry workers and finally, with the juvenile inmates of a home for troubled children. The long running series was the recipient of two Emmy Awards. Rudd Weatherwax (who had trained Pal for the six MGM films), also trained the several portrayers of Lassie for the television series.
Eventually, other series followed in the 1980s and 1990s from different production companies. In 1997, a Canadian production company, Cinar Inc. (now Cookie Jar Entertainment), produced a third "Lassie" television series (1997–1999) for the
Animal Planetnetwork in the U.S. and YTV in Canada.
The various series had different casts, with some tying back to the original series and others being new concepts. All included the basic theme of Lassie being a highly intelligent collie frequently helping her owners get out of trouble, making the Lassie concept one of the longest running of any collective series.cite web| url=http://www.lassie.net/timeline.htm | title = Lassie Timeline | accessdate = 2007-09-30| work = Colliewoode Productions]
In 2005, a remake of the original "Lassie Come Home" movie was produced in the
United Kingdom. Starring Peter O'Tooleand Samantha Morton, "Lassie" was released in 2006. [cite journal | author= Philip Potempa | title=Latest Lassie busy promoting new film | journal=Northwest Indiana Times | date= August 11, 2006| volume= | issue= | pages= | url=http://nwitimes.com/articles/2006/08/11/columnists/offbeat/8e1a1a7fcfb75bf7862571c5008367cc.txt ] It was warmly received by critics such as Michael Wilmington of the " Chicago Tribune", who called the acting "splendid" and "excellent".cite journal | author= Michael Wilmington | title=Lassie's back...and better than ever | journal= Chicago Tribune| date= September 1, 2006| volume= | issue= | pages= | url=http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access/1117891581.html?dids=1117891581:1117891581&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Sep+1%2C+2006&author=Michael+Wilmington%2C+Tribune+movie+critic&pub=Chicago+Tribune&edition=&startpage=1&desc=BOW+WOW!+ ]
The copyrights to the films and series are split because so many production companies picked up the story (and changed its characters and focus) over the years. The rights to the trademark of "Lassie" and TV series are held by Classic Media; however,
Warner Bros./ Turner Entertainmentholds the rights to the "Lassie" films originally made by MGM.
Many of the movies and TV episodes are widely available on
VHSand DVD, and are still aired on television. The 1954 – 1957 episodes of the Lassie TV show were later syndicated as " Jeff's Collie" and televised on the Animal Planetchannel, along with the later seasons of the series which retained their original title of "Lassie." The later seasons' programs featuring Jon Provost and Robert Bray continue to be rerun in many countries.
Lassie continues to make personal appearances as well as marketing a line of pet food and a current pet care TV show, "
Lassie's Pet Vet" on PBS stations in the United States.
Lassie is one of only three animals (and one of very few fictional characters, such as
Mickey Mouseand Bugs Bunny) to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame– the others being silent-film stars Rin Tin Tinand Strongheart. In 2005, the show business journal "Variety" named Lassie one of the "100 Icons of all time" – the only animal star on the list. [ [http://www.variety.com/index.asp?layout=variety100&content=jump&jump=icon&articleID=VR1117930642 Variety "100 Icons of All Time"] ]
The dog behind the character
The first dog to star as Lassie in the 1943 movie "
Lassie Come Home" was "Pal", originally from Glamis Collies of California. The original owner could not train the dog and hired Studio Dog Training School to do the job. When the owner could not pay the bill, Pal was acquired and trained by brothers Rudd Weatherwaxand Frank Weatherwax. Also assisting with training on the MGM studio lot was Frank Freeman (a.k.a. Frank Inn), who later went on to fame as the trainer of Higgins, the dog who played Benjiin a series of 1970s films. [cite journal | author= Obituary | title=Frank Freeman (Frank Inn), animal trainer | journal=Variety | date= August 26, 2002| volume= | issue= | pages= | url=http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117871946.html ] In 1950, Rudd Weatherwax co-wrote a book, "The story of Lassie, his discovery and training from puppyhood to stardom", recounting Pal's rise to an international icon. [Rudd B. Weatherwax and John H. Rothwell, "The story of Lassie, his discovery and training from puppyhood to stardom". New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1950. (LCCN 50010841)]
Pal was bred with a number of female dogs to ensure the Lassie look could be continued. The Lassie looks of sable coat with a white blaze, large white collar, and four white paws is legally
trademarked. The collies are also intentionally bred oversized so that the males selected can work with older child stars.
All collies to play Lassie have been male because male collies retain a thicker summer coat than females which "looks better on television" [Citation | last = Jacks | first = Beth | author-link = | last2 = Womer | first2 = Kelly | author2-link = | title = Every Day Thoughts: Words to Woof by | place = China | publisher = New Seasons (Publications International Ltd) | year = 2008 | volume = | edition = 2008 edition | page = July 14 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 1-4127-4371-0] Also, the male is larger and a child actor can play opposite the dog for longer before outgrowing him.
Eight generations of Pal and his descendants portrayed the beloved collie in more than ten movies and two television series, until the late 1990s. All of the canines starring in those movies and TV series were owned and trained by Frank and Rudd Weatherwax and later by Rudd's son, Robert Weatherwax. [http://www.petpublishing.com/dogken/breeds/collie.shtml "Collie... Everybody's All-Star", "Dog and Kennel Magazine", 2000.] ]
This tradition continued in 1997, when Cinar began shooting the third "Lassie" television series for the
Animal Planetnetwork. In the first season (1997–1998), Lassie was played by "Howard", an eighth generation collie descended from Pal.
Midway through production, Cinar replaced Howard with a non-Pal descended dog. Lassie fans objected, arguing that only a dog in the Pal bloodline could be considered an "authentic" Lassie. They protested to Cinar and Animal Planet, along with Golden Books Family Entertainment (which had licensing rights at the time to the Lassie image). In response, "Hey Hey II", a ninth-generation direct descendant of Pal owned and trained by
Carol Riggins, was brought in to assume the role of Lassie for the final thirteen episodes of the show in 1999. [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118380/trivia "Lassie Trivia", IMDB article] ]
Following Animal Planet's cancellation of the TV show,
Classic Mediasubsequently acquired the Lassie trademark from the Weatherwax family in 2000. In 2003, Classic Media ended its contract with Weatherwax to supply Pal-bloodline collies to portray the Lassie character. In the 2005–2006 remake of the original "Lassie" movie, a non-Pal bloodline collie named "Mason" was used in the title role. Although Mason was praised as "photogenic" by " Chicago Tribune" critic Michael Wilmington, Lassie devotees objected to the movie's use of a non-Pal bloodline collie. [cite journal | author= Anna van Praagh | title=Battle of the Lassies | journal=Sunday Mail | date= June 5, 2005| volume= | issue= | pages= | url=http://www.lassie.net/press/battle2005.pdf ]
In late 2005, following the shooting of the movie, Classic Media contracted with Carol Riggins to supply "Hey Hey II", as the ninth generation Lassie in the Pal bloodline. More recently, Robert Weatherwax has disputed the use of collies other than his as authentic Pal-bloodline "Lassies", which has received some news media attention and comment on Lassie fan websites.cite journal | author= Philip Potempa | title=Lassie caught in 'dog fight' | journal=Northwest Indiana Times | date=
September 17, 2006| volume= | issue= | pages= | url=http://www.thetimesonline.com/articles/2006/09/17/columnists/offbeat/7156c06195b37886862571e90073ef59.txt ]
In 2006, Lassie returned to TV in the PBS series "Lassie's Pet Vet" with veternarian Dr. Jeff Werber.
In January 2008, the legacy of line dogs continued with the premiere of Lassie 10 (aka Rockie), the 10th generation direct genetic descendant of the original Lassie. On hand for the premiere of Lassie 10 was Jon Provost (Timmy).
Lassie was a special surprise guest on National Geographic Channel's "Cesar Millan, Dog Whisperer" on September 19, 2008 when Cesar celebrated his 100th episode. Cesar's childhood heros were Lassie and Rin Tin Tin and one of his dreams coming to America was to meet them.
Lassie in the media
Lassie Come Home" (1943) - Pal plays the title character.
Son of Lassie" (1945 - Pal plays the title character, while another dog appears as Lassie.
Courage of Lassie" (1946) - stars Elizabeth Taylor, who also appeared in the first film; despite the title, this one features Pal as "Bill".
* "Hills of Home" a.k.a. "Master of Lassie" (1948) - Pal actually plays "Lass."
Challenge to Lassie" (1949) - retells Greyfriar's Bobbystory.
The Sun Comes Up" (1949) - stars Jeanette MacDonaldas a bereaved mother who hates Lassie (played by Pal), due to the dog's inadvertent role in her son's death.
The Painted Hills" (1951) - Pal plays "Shep".
* "Big Jake" (1971) An unknown, uncredited descendant of Pal plays "Dog".
The Magic of Lassie" (1978)
* "Lassie" (1994)
* "Lassie" (2005) - Mason stars as Lassie.
* "Lassie" (1954-1973) – produced in the U.S. on the
CBStelevision network, first starring Tommy Rettig, later Jon Provost, and finally Robert Bray
Lassie's Rescue Rangers" (1970s) – a cartoon series by Filmation,
The New Lassie" (1989-1991) – produced in the U.S. in first-run syndication, set in Glenridge, California. Will Nipper, later known as Will Estes, played Lassie's boy.
Lassie (1997 TV series)" (1997-1999) – produced by Cinar of Canada for the Animal Planetnetwork, starring Corey Sevieras "Timmy Cabot" and set in mythical Hudson Falls, Vermont, although the show was actually filmed in Quebec
Whose Line Is It Anyway?" – As a guest appearance with Wayne Bradyand Brad Sherwoodduring the skit "Duet", where Wayne and Brad sang a country song to Lassie.
Meiken Lassie" (Famous Dog Lassie) – an animation produced in Japanby Nippon Animation from January 14, 1996to August 18, 1996.
Lassie's Pet Vet" – a current PBS pet-care program.
*"Lassie - A Dog's Life: The First 50 Years"
*"The Lassie Method"
*"Magic of Lassie"
*"The Story of Lassie"
*"Lassie: A Christmas Story"
*"Challenge to Lassie"
*"The Sun Comes Up"
*"Lassie: The Prize"
*"Forest Ranger Handbook"
*"Lassie: A Boy's Best Friend & Buried Treasure"
*"Lassie: Party Nightmare & Water Watchdog"
*"Lassie: Skateboard Stunt & Danger Zone"
*"Lassie and the Lost Little Sheep"
*"Lassie's Forest Adventure"
*"Lassie: Rescue in the Storm"
*"Lassie and the Mystery of Blackberry Bog"
*"Lassie and the Secret of the Summer"
*"Lassie: Forbidden Valley"
*"Lassie: Treasure Hunter"
*"Lassie: the Wild Mountain Trail"
*"Lassie and the Mystery of Bristlecone Pine"
*"Lassie and the Secret of the Smelter's Cave"
*"Lassie: Lost in the Snow"
*"Lassie: Trouble at Panter's Lake"
Big Little Books
*"Lassie: Adventure in Alaska"
*"Lassie and the Shabby Sheik"
*"Lassie: Old One Eye"Golden Books
*"The Adventures of Lassie"
*"Lassie and Her Day in the Sun"
*"Lassie and Her Friends"
*"Lassie and the Big Clean-Up Day"
*"Lassie and the Daring Rescue"
*"Lassie and the Lost Explorer"
*"Lassie Shows the Way"
*"Lassie: The Great Escape"
*"Hooray for Lassie!"
*"Lassie and the Cub Scout"
*"Lassie and the Deer Mystery"
*"Lassie and the Firefighters"
*"Lassie and the Kittens"
*"Lassie Finds a Friend"
*"Lassie's Brave Adventure"
*"Lassie: The Busy Morning"
*"Lassie: The Sandbar Rescue"
*"Lassie's Long Trip"
*"Lassie to the Rescue"
*"Lassie: Hayloft Hideout"
*"Lassie Under the Big Top"
*"Lassie: Treasure at Eagle Mountain"
*"Lassie: Danger at Echo Cliffs"
The New Lassie
*"The Puppy Problem"
*"Digging Up Danger"
*"The Big Blowup"
* "Captain Loxley's Little Dog And Lassie The Life-saving Collie: Hero Dogs of the First World War Associated With The Sinking of H.M.S. Formidable" Diggory Press ISBN 978-1905363131
Lassie inspired a number of similar "heroic dog" characters, including:
The Littlest Hobo"
* [http://www.lassie.com Classic Media's Lassie Site]
* [http://www.lassie.net The Lassie Network]
* [http://ibistro.dos.state.fl.us/uhtbin/cgisirsi.exe/bezK0aLVv4/STA-FLA/321335550/18/X650/XSUBJECT/Lassie+(Dog). Photographs of Lassie on location] from the State Library & Archives of Florida
* [http://destinyland.mondoglobo.net/2006/10/15/dog-stars-from-lassie-to-rin-tin-tin/ Podcast about America's history with dog performers]
* [http://www.carolriggins.com/ Carol Riggins – official website]
* [http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=1914012n "Lassie returns", "CBS News",
October 11, 2006. (video)]
* [http://www.weatherwaxtraineddogs.com/ Weatherwax Trained Dogs]
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