Who was the first dog movie star?

Narrated from: Curious Dog Facts

Doggie cinema before Rin Tin Tin

You’ve probably heard of Rin Tin Tin, the canine celebrity who became a hit in Hollywood. He, of course, paved the way for entertaining films with dog stars that have delighted us ever since!

However, the legacy of dogs in cinema does not begin with Rin Tin Tin.

Actually, it is hard to say when dogs started to appear in movies – in the dawn of cinema, countless silent movies were shot, and many of them have been lost over time. However, the first dog to actually have a major role in a film was Blair – the collie starred in “Rescued by Rover” (1905). Blair played the role of Rover of course – actually, it was after this movie that the name became popular!

“Rescued by Rover” was not what you would call a “blockbuster”, though. Several other dogs followed in the steps of Blair, and it was another collie, Jean, who made the big breakthrough. She played title roles in several silent movies between 1906 and 1916. Her career was interrupted by the war, and she never quite managed to become a celebrity.

Jean’s death in 1916 left a very sad master – Laurence Trimble. Trimble had entered Hollywood thanks to Jean – it was a happy chance that he was near a movie set when it turned out that the Vitagraph Company needed a dog for their latest project.
However, Trimble still had something to give to doggie cinema. It was he who trained the first dog to become a Hollywood star!

So here comes Strongheart. Under the guidance of Trimble, the German Shepherd starred in no less than five silent movies – sadly, only one of them has been preserved to this day. Strongheart holds the title of “first dog movie star”. In his day, he became a major celebrity in Hollywood and thus, all over the world. It is strongly believed that Strongheart paved the way for RIn Tin Tin – all the hype around the Strongheart movies pushed Rin Tin Tin’s company to enter the Hollywood “outdogging”.

A curious fact about Strongheart, though – that was not his real name. Strongheart was just a screen name – the dog’s real name was Etzel von Oeringen. A name such as that would’ve ruined any marketing campaign. Etzel was born in Germany and trained to be a police dog. However, fate intervened and like the Schwarzenegger of doggie cinema, he came to the USA – and proved that anyone can be a star!

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