Tuesday 13 May 2014

Rin Tin Tin the puppy that became a film star

I'm working on a panel for the Fascinating Facts of the Great War section of my Exhibitions - it's about Rin Tin Tin, the famous German Shepherd Dog movie star - and I thought you might like to know how Rin Tin Tin got his name... 

The original Rintintin was one of a pair of Parisian street urchins ('titis' in Parisian slang) drawn as a cartoon by a French Artist in 1913 and called Nénette et Rintintin. The little cartoon couple became famous throughout France during WW1 because of a popular song and people made little dolls representing the couple out of bits of left-over wool.  Paris was not occupied during WW1 but it was during WW2 when the artist who drew Nénette et Rintintin was put under house arrest for designing patriotic posters, cartoons and cards during WW1.

The drawings and song depicted the couple as escaping unscathed from the various bombardments that Paris was subjected to during the First World War, so they were made into good luck charms and also brooches and distributed widely. 

The artist also designed a postcard with the woollen dolls pictured on it with a little poem and these were sent to troops at the Front for luck, which may be how Lee Duncan knew about them.

Rin Tin Tin was found as a puppy by an American Army Corporal called Lee Duncan in a bombed out kennels in Lorraine in the east of France (which back then was under Germany rule) in August 1918.   

The kennels had bred guard dogs for supply to the German Army.    The story goes that there was a German Shepherd bitch still alive in the kennels and she had just given birth to six puppies. Duncan rescued them and took them back to his Regiment's camp to look after them - the puppies were so tiny they apparently hadn't opened their eyes. 

Once they were weaned, Duncan chose two puppies for himself - a male and female - and called them Nanette and Rin Tin Tin.  
He took them back to America with him after the War - Nanette died but Rin Tin Tin survived.  Lee Duncan trained his dog and the rest, as they say, is history.   

Rin Tin Tin lived until 1932, starred in 27 films and even had his own radio show from 1930 - 1932.  Duncan took the body of his dog back to Paris where Rin Tin Tin is buried.   There were eleven more dogs, reportedly related to the original Rin Tin Tin, after his death and a TV film series was also made using his name.
Sources:  Sources:  www.nenette.tm.fr and www.malraux.org

Note: “titis” is a word in Parisian slang meaning ‘street children’.   For fans of “Les Miserables”, Gavroche is a ‘titi’.   "Titi"is also the name used in France for Tweetie Pie the cartoon character.

Photo:  Google Images.