Saturday, March 17, 2012

The original Lassie, canine thespian

A few have written asking about Lassie, the canine actor in The Street of Forgotten Men. That film was shown on March 15th at Cinefest 32 in Syracuse, New York.

A 1927 New York Times article about the canine stated, "It is said that the death of Lassie in The Street of Forgotten Men was so impressive that persons were convinced that she must have been cruelly beaten. Her master, Emery Bronte, said that the dog seemed to enjoy acting in the scenes, and that after each 'take' she went over to Mr. Brenon and cocked her head on the side, as if asking for a pat or two." Apparently, this notable scene - her best scene - her death scene - is missing from the surviving six reels (of this seven reel film).

This Lassie, a contemporary of Rin-Tin-Tin, was bull terrier - cocker spaniel mix who predated the more famous Collie which starred in later movies and television shows. The New York Times describes her as an "intelligent animal" and a "clever screen actress." And according to that 1927 article, she was then earning a remarkable $15,000 a year as a canine actor / performer. That was a lost of money then.

Some of the other films in which Lassie appeared include Tol'able David, Knockabout Riley, The Beautiful City and Sonny. Her fellow actors included Mabel Normand, Viola Dana, Richard Barthelmess, Marion Davies, Richard Dix, Tom Moore and George Walsh, among others.

Here is an April, 1926 Mexican newspaper advertisement for The Street of Forgotten Men (and two others) showing a character from the Herbert Brenon-directed film holding Lassie. (In Spanish, The Street of Forgotten Men is titled La Calle del Olvido.) Here is another depiction of Lassie, who looks like a pretty cute dog. Watch out Uggie!

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