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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)
Pal (Lassie)

Pal (Lassie)

Poor Pal had no idea when his owner Howard Peck in 1941 brought the handsome Rough Collie to the celebrated animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax to cure him of his barking and motorcycle chasing what lay in store for him. Weatherwax eventually took Pal off Peck’s hand, and at one point even sold the dog himself. But when he learned that the MGM was getting set to produce a film based on Eric Knight’s beloved novel Lassie Go Home, Weatherwax bought the dog back. Originally the star part of Lassie (quite rightly) went to a female Collie. But in the middle of production, Pal was brought in to do a complicated water stunt the female dog couldn’t do. He performed it so well that supposedly MGM’s head Louis B. Mayer quipped, “"Pal had entered the water, but Lassie had come out." Pal went on to make seven films in all, and then later starred in the first Lassie TV series. When MGM decided to retire Lassie, Weatherwax negotiated a deal that in lieu of $40,000 back wages he would retain rights to the name. In so doing, Weatherwax also made certain that subsequent Lassies would be Pal’s descendents. They were also all males, a fact that Groucho Marx highlighted in his famous joke, "Ever since the public found out that Lassie was really a male, they've been thinking the worst about Hollywood." But even more than being a film star, Pal had a huge effect on the way Americans viewed pets. For one, during the 40s, the number of purebred Collies in the United States increased by more than six-times, going from about 3,000 to 18,400 by the start of the 50s. In addition, the inclusion of the dog as part of the family, to live inside and eat with everyone else, some view as another legacy of Lassie (and of Pal).