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Canine Stars: From Rover to Cosmo

Posted May 04, 2011 to photo album "Canine Stars: From Rover to Cosmo"

Starting in 1905 when Rover rescued a baby, dogs have been cinema’s unsung heroes. We look at some of the finest.

Cosmo (Arthur)
Blair (Rover)
Etzel von Oeringen (Strongheart)
Rin Tin Tin (Various Roles)
Skippy (Asta)
Pal (Lassie)
Pal (Petey)
Terry (Toto)
Spike (Old Yeller)
Buddy/Air Bud
Moose (Eddie)
Blair (Rover)

Blair (Rover)

Perhaps the first great canine star was an accidental celebrity with the stage name of Rover. In 1905, pioneer British filmmaker Cecil Hepworth gathered his family and his dog Blair together to shoot a 7-minute film adventure about a baby kidnapped and the brave dog that rescues the infant from a thieving beggar.  The film proved so popular, that they had to go back and reshoot it several times because the film’s negative kept wearing out. Its complicated production also marked several turning points in the history of cinema. Its use of many edits and shots to tell the story and infuse a sense of action changed filmmakers’ understanding of film language. And although Hepworth mostly cast his own family, his hiring of several cast members marked the start of paid actors in film. And finally his use of a dog created both the first canine star and parade of animal-partnered chase stories. The dog Blair would go on to appear in several more films, and his name Rover, unusual at the time, became universally popular for dogs.  Blair even received an obituary when he died.