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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)
Etzel von Oeringen (Strongheart)

Etzel von Oeringen (Strongheart)

Like so many foreign actors, the German Shepherd Etzel von Oeringen was pushed to take the more film friendly title of Strongheart when he started making films. Trained in Germany as a police dog and having worked for the German Red Cross during World War I, Strongheart was discovered by filmmaker and animal trainer Larry Trimble and his wife screenwriter Jane Murfin who were in Europe looking for a new canine star. While von Oeringen was trained for action scenes, Trimble took the time to coach the shepherd on more tender moments of human/dog connection. In 1921, a year later, Strongheart appeared in his first film The Silent Call.  The sports writer Hetwood Broun wrote only half-joking at the time, “The Silent Call presents the most beautiful of all male stars now appearing in the films. In intelligence, also, his rank seems high. The picture is built around Strongheart.” The star dog went on to appear in five more films, even getting a romantic lead, Lady Jule (who proved his mate off-set as well). In 1929, at the age of 13, Strongheart was burned by a light on set, an injury that turned fatal. But even dead, he was not gone. His caretaker, J. Allen Boone kept his spirit alive with a series of books, Kinship with All Life (1954) and Letters to Strongheart (1939), that latter which included this sentiment in a missive to the departed dog: “Let others believe you are dead if they desire; that is their privilege. But I want no part of it; for as far as I am concerned, you are just as vitally alive, and just as much the “old pal” now as ever.” He is also found on the grocery shelf; Simmon Pet Food created a dog food line called Strongheart that is still being sold. He also is one of the few dogs with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.