Rin Tin Tin was a childhood hero of mine, when I was fascinated by pets and the promise of everything they could do to change the world. Classics such as Black Beauty, National Velvet, Bambi, Misty, Lassie, The Littlest Hobo (remember any of these?) held special places in my heart and they still do, along with so many other memorable animals. These special animals – whether fictional or real – gave me a life-long devotion toward creatures and a deep appreciation for the 4-legged members of our planet.
Perhaps I have never grown up, but I still cherish the story of Rin Tin Tin and was thrilled that this legend was now available at our Henderson Libraries for a whole new generation to enjoy. I am reserving a copy today!
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend is written by Susan Orlean. I have included part of a review by Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. That novel brought me to tears and I am sure this one will too!
I don’t think this book would be appropriate for young children, given the subject matter. Not that any of it is objectionable, but it’s beyond little children’s realm of experience. Older teens and young adults would no doubt find it as fascinating as those of us who carry a few extra years.
He believed the dog was immortal.
So begins Susan Orlean’s sweeping, powerfully moving story of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon. From the moment in 1918 when Corporal Lee Duncan discovers Rin Tin Tin on a World War I battlefield, he recognizes something in the pup that he needs to share with the world. Rin Tin Tin’s improbable introduction to Hollywood leads to the dog’s first blockbuster film and over time, the many radio programs, movies, and television shows that follow.
As Garth Stein states in his book review: ” Though Lee Duncan proclaimed Rin Tin Tin to be immortal, his downfall did come, and with it, the downfall of Duncan, and later of Leonard and others who tried to keep the dynasty alive. Did we, as a society, simply outgrow Rin Tin Tin? Was he undone by computer graphics technology, short attention spans, loss of ability to suspend disbelief, and a skeptical inability to anthropomorphize? Or did we simply heal the wounds inflicted by world wars and atrocities of the last century? Did Rin Tin Tin, who was found on the battlefield in World War I, come to the aid of an ailing society, and, having provided solace to the people, simply serve his purpose and move on? One can argue either point, but I like to think the latter is more fitting. And I like to think that the love and devotion of a dog named Rin Tin Tin helped us greatly in our healing.
There were many Rin Tin Tins, and sometimes dogs who weren’t even Rintys played Rinty on television and in the movies. Because Rin Tin Tin, the hero, is larger than any one dog.
Was the hero discovered or was he invented? I think a little of both. For certainly it was good fortune that Lee Duncan stumbled upon the dog, Rin Tin Tin, in France. But it was hard work, clever marketing, and sensitivity and understanding of the larger issues with which our society struggled that made the dog a hero. Having the key to the door is not enough; one must know to unlock the door and step through.
Rin Tin Tin is a wonderful, compelling book that will have you thinking long after you’ve set it down. Susan Orlean has created a fascinating history of a dog, yes, but she has also opened a discussion of many larger issues, which are highly relevant and provocative. This is a truly terrific book!”