Susan Orlean follows Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon and follows the lives of his ardent fans that kept the lineage alive and documented but shows the appeal of the character across generations of fans and puppies. So much so that some say Rin Tin Tin has never died because there is always a Rin Tin Tin or Rinny.
The story begins on a battlefield in France during World War I, when a young American soldier, Lee Duncan, discovered a newborn German shepherd in the ruins of a bombed-out dog kennel. Duncan brought Rinty home to California, where the dog’s athleticism and acting ability drew the attention of Warner Bros. Over the next ten years, Rinty starred in twenty-three blockbuster silent films that saved the studio from bankruptcy and made him the most famous dog in the world. At the height of his popularity, Rin Tin Tin was Hollywood’s number one box office star. During the decades that followed, Rinty and his descendants rose and fell with the times, making a tumultuous journey from silent films to talkies, from black-and-white to color, from radio programs to one of the most popular television shows of the baby boom era, The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin. The canine hero’s legacy was cemented by Duncan and a small group of others—including Bert Leonard, the producer of the TV series, and Daphne Hereford, the owner of the current Rin Tin Tin—who have dedicated their lives to making sure the dog’s legend will never die. A heartfelt story.