We all remember Lassie, that beautiful female Rough Collie from our childhood times. Lassie was our star and we all fell in LOVE with her. Kind, smart and that kind of best friend we all dreamed of having in our lives.
Lassie was created by Eric Mowbray Knight, who was an English novelist and screenwriter, who in 1940 wrote the now world-famous novel Lassie Come-Home.
Back then Knight worked as a freelance writer and was a well respected journalist and was commissioned to report upon the desperate times during the war. People were suffering so much that they even had to sell their prize dogs to keep going. Touched by these sad stories and thinking of his LOVE for his own collie he created his story “Lassie Come Home.” It instantly received so much response in The Saturday Evening Post, that he was approached to turn it into a novel, which was a best-seller in no time.
MGM, always on the look-out for the next HIT bought the rights and turned LASSIE into a film in 1943.
But the real star in the movie was a collie called Pal. Did you know how Pal came to be a movie-star? THE WEATHER! Yes, really. MGM who actually had hired a show collie trained by Frank Inn, took advantage of a massive flooding of the Sacramento River in northern California to obtain some spectacular footage for their new film. The movie-star to be however was still in training, so MGM hired Pal as a STAND-IN for the river scene. Although the work was actually considered extremely complicated for a dog-actor, Pal however performed exceptionally well. According to legend, after seeing the first prints, the then head of MGM, Louis B. Mayer, stated that “Pal had entered the water, but Lassie had come out,” and a new star was born.
Once the film became such instant success, Pal then appeared with her stage name “Lassie” in six other MGM feature films through 1951.
Pal’s daddy, was an American actor, breeder and dog-trainer named Rudd Weatherwax who then acquired the Lassie name and trademark from MGM and appeared with Pal (as “Lassie”) at rodeos, fairs, and similar events across America in the early 1950s. Everyone wanted a little *Lassie Magic* and wherever these two went, the crowds were overcome with joy and happiness.
Rudd became such a well known trainer, that he was also hired to handle the dogs for the Lassie television series which ran from 1954 to 1974, and he trained Spike for the 1957 feature film Old Yeller.
In 1954, the long-running, Emmy winning television series Lassie debuted, and over the next 19(!) years, a succession of Pal’s descendants appeared on these series. Lassie’s character has since appeared in radio, television, film, toys, comic books, animated series, juvenile novels, and other media. And did you know – Pal’s descendants continue to play Lassie even today.
WOW. Thank you Lassie. You are PAWSOME