Saturday, November 28, 2009


Cheeta's role was to provide comic relief, convey messages between Tarzan and his allies, and occasionally lead Tarzan's other animal friends to the ape-man's rescue.

There are actually three main animal actors to portray Tarzan's Cheeta: Jiggs, Jiggs Jr. and Cheeta.

Jiggs was born in 1929. He originated the character of Cheeta in the 1930s Hollywood Tarzan movies. He was owned and trained by Tony and Jacqueline Gentry.

Jiggs appeared as Cheeta in the first two Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) and Tarzan and His Mate (1934).

He also appeared in the Buster Crabbe serial Tarzan the Fearless (1933) and the Herman Brix serial The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935). Jiggs was cast in at least one additional film, Her Jungle Love (1938), starring Dorothy Lamour, which was his last picture.

Jiggs died on February 28, 1938 at age 9, of pneumonia, and was buried March 2, 1938 in the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery.

Jiggs, Jr. (also known as Jiggs II), was a male chimpanzee born about 1935, also owned and trained by Tony and Jacqueline Gentry. He also appeared in a number of Tarzan films, including Tarazan Has Son (1938). It is rumored that Jiggs Jr. went to the Baltimore Zoo when Tony Gentry went into the service in World War II, his ultimate fate is unknown.

The most famous is Cheeta, the animal star of at least 12 Tarzan films as well as the television series in the 1960s. Cheeta was born in Africa in 1932. He made his last film, Doctor Doolittle in 1967.

Cheeta holds the Guinness World Record as the world's oldest chimpanzee. Cheeta is now 77 years old and resides in Palm Springs, California.

Since 2004 there have been several unsuccessful campaigns to secure a star for Cheeta on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and as of 2009 filmmaker Matt Devlen is continuing the effort.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Leo the Lion

In 1916, Goldwyn Pictures first introduced Leo the Lion.

The original logo was designed by Howard Dietz and used by the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation studio from 1916 to 1924. Howard Dietz used a lion as the studio's mascot as a tribute to his alma mater Columbia University, whose althletic teams' nickname is the Lions. He added the lion roar for Columbia's fight song "Roar, Lion, Roar".

The first film to feature the famous Lion was Polly of the Circus (1917).

In 1924, movie theater magnate Marcus Loew bought Metro Pictures Corporation and Goldwyn Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was born.

Since 1924, Leo the Lion has been the mascot for the Hollywood film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

There have actually been five different lions: Slats, Jackie, Tanner, George and Leo.

Slats was the first lion featured for MGM. He was born at Dublin Zoo, Ireland on March 20, 1919. The first MGM film Slats was He Who Gets Slapped (1924). Slats was used on all black and white films between 1924 and 1928 (with three exceptions). Slats died in 1936.

Jackie made her "official" debut in 1928. However, she did appear in the opening credits of Greed (1924), Ben-Hur (1925), and Flesh and the Devil (1926). She is also the first lion's rorar heard by audiences of the silent film era. She appeared in all black and white MGM films from 1928 to 1956. She also appeared in the opening credits of the Wizard of Oz (1939).

Tanner was used on all Technicolor MGM films (1934—1956) and cartoons (late 1935—1958, 1963—1967), except for The Wizard of Oz (1939). Tanner, whose first appearance was before the short subject Star Night at the Coconut Grove (1934) and his first feature film appearance was before Sweethearts (1938). Tanner was Leo the Lion for 22 years, second only to the current Lion. It is Tannerthat was the most frequently used version throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood as color became the norm.

The fourth lion, George, was introduced in mid-1956 and seved only two years. Two of George's appearances include The Opposite Sex (1956) and The Wings of Eagles (1957). From 1957 to 1958, George was used in tandem with the current lion.

Leo, the fifth lion, was purchased from a famous animal dealer named Henry Trefflich and trained by Ralph Helfer. Leo made his debut in 1957 and has been the mascot for 52 years.

After 93 years, the future of Leo the Lion is uncertain. MGM is crumbling under the weight of almost $4 billion in debt, and is up for sale.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pal (Lassie)

Pal was born on June 4, 1940 in Cherry Osborne's Glamis Kennels in North Hollywood, California. He was a male Rough Collie and the first in a line of such dogs to portray the fictional female collie Lassie in film and television.

The son of Red Brucie of Glamis and Bright Bauble of Glamis, Pal's ancestry is traced to the nineteenth century and England's first great collie, "Old Cockie".

Howard Peck, an animal trainer, brought the eight-month-old collie to Hollywood animal trainer Rudd Weathermax in order to break the animal of uncontrolled barking and a habit of chasing motorcycles.

After working with the dog, Weatherwax gained control of the barking but was unable to break Pal of his motorcycle-chasing habit. Peck was disappointed with the results and gave the dog to Weatherwax in exchange for the money Peck owed him.

Rudd Weatherwax, in turn, gave the dog to a friend. But when Weathermax heard of the film being made called Lassie Comes Home, he sensed Pal was the dog for the movie and bought Pal back.

Rudd's brother Frank Weatherwax, who trained dogs such as Terry (Toto) assisted in training Pal for the movie.

Pal was among 1,500 dogs who auditioned for the title role, but was rejected because he was male, his eyes were too big, his head too flat, and a white blaze ran down his forehead. A female prize-winning show collie was hired to play the title character. Weatherwax was hired to train the star, and Pal was hired as a stunt dog.

During the course of filming, a decision was made to take advantage of a massive flooding of the San Joaquin River in California in order to obtain some live action footage for the film.

The female collie was still in training and refused to do many of the scenes. Weatherwax was on the site with Pal and offered to have his dog perform in a shot in which Pal would swim the river, haul himself out, lie down without shaking the water off his coat, attempt to crawl while lying on his side and finally lie motionless, completely exhausted. Pal performed the scene beautifully and in only one take.

In response, producers fired the female collie and hired Pal in her place and reshot the first six weeks of filming with Pal, now portraying Lassie.

Originally, Lassie Come Home was to be a low budget, black and white children's film. But Pal was so wonderful, doing many scences in one take and his own stunts, that the movies was upgraded to an A film with full advertising support, top publicity and filming in Technicolor.

Pal's success in Lassie Come Home (1943) led to six more films: Son of Lassie (1945), Courage of Lassie (1946), Hills of Home (1948), The Sun Comes Up (1949), Challenge to Lassie (1950), and The Painted Hills (1951).

After the movie The Painted Hills, MGM felt that Lassie had run its course and planned no more Lassie movies. Rudd Weathermax bought the rights to the Lassie name and trademark.

Television producer Robert Maxwell convinced Weatherwax that Pal's future lay in television. Together, the men created a boy-and-his-dog scenario about a struggling family on a weatherbeaten farm in Middle America.

The title role of the boy in the Lassie television series was narrowed to three young actors. It was decided that Pal would make the final decision.

After spending a week with the boys at Weatherwax's North Hollywood home, Pal seemed to like eleven-year-old Tommy Rettiq more than the other two boys. Rettig won the role based on Pal's response, and filming for the two pilots began in the summer of 1954, with Pal portraying Lassie in both.

Pal retired after filming the two pilots (The Inheritence and The Well), and his son, Lassie Junior (who was three years old and had been in training for a couple of years), stepped into the television role. After viewing the pilots, CBS executives immediately signed the 30-minute show to its fall 1954 schedule.

Pal, a devoted father, would accompy his son to filming. Series star Tommy Rettig later recalled, "When Rudd would ask Lassie, Jr. to do something, if you were behind the set, you could see The Old Man get up from his bed and go through the routine back there."

By 1957, Pal was growing blind, deaf, and stiff, and rarely visited the Lassie set.

Pal died in 1958, and, for months, Weatherwax slipped in and out of deep depression. Robert Weatherwax, Rudd's son, later recalled, "It hit him very hard when Pal died."

All dogs in the subsequent 'Lassie' films, and television series, have been descendants of Pal until 2003.

Pal won the Patsy Award of Excellence in 1951 for Challenge to Lassie.

Lassie has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rin Tin Tin

Rin Tin Tin was born on September 10, 1918 in Lorraine, France.

On September 15, 1918, during World War I, a shell shocked pup was found by US Air Corporal Lee Duncan and his battalion in a bombed out dog kennel in Lorraine. Duncan found a mother Shepherd Dog and her scrawny litter of five pups. Duncan chose two of the dogs, a male and female, while members of his group took the mother and the others back to camp. The only survivors over the next few months were the two pups Duncan had claimed, naming them 'Rin Tin Tin' and 'Nannette' after tiny French puppets the French children would give to the American soldiers for good luck.

When the war ended, Duncan made special arrangements to take his pups back to his home in Los Angeles, but during the Atlantic crossing, Nannette became ill and died, shortly after arriving in America.

In 1922, Duncan and Rin Tin Tin attended an LA dog show, with 'Rinty' performing for the crowd by jumping 13 ½ feet. Following the show, producer Darryl Zanuck asked Duncan if he could try out his new 'moving pictures' camera on the dog.

Rin Tin Tin's big break came when he stepped in for a recalcitrant wolf in The Man From Hell's River (1922). Rin Tin Tin would be cast as a wolf or wolf-hybrid many times in his career, though he did not look like one.

Rin Tin Tin's first starring role was in Where The North Begins (1922), playing alongside silent screen actress Claire Adams.

Between 1922 and 1931, Rin Tin Tin would make 27 movies. His movies included The Lighthouse by the Sea (1924), Tracked in the Snow Country (1925), Clash of the Wolves (1925), While London Sleeps (1926), A Dog of the Regiment (1927), Land of the Silver Fox (1928), The Man Hunter (1930) and The Lightning Warrior (1931).

Between 1930 and 1932, Rin Tin Tin was in the radio series The Wonder Dog.

On August 10, 1932, Rin Tin Tin was no longer strong enough to go to his master's side. The day he passed away, Jean Harlow, who lived across the street, came over and cradled his head in her lap as he died.

"Rin Tin Tin" was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

After his death, Rin Tin Tin Jr. took over for his father's radio series. He also apperead in several short films in the 1930s, including the 12-part serial, The Adventures of Rex and Rinty.

Rin Tin Tin III starred alongside a young Robert Blake in 1947's The Return of Rin Tin Tin.

During World War II, Rin Tin Tin III served at Camp Hahn training more than 5000 dogs and their handlers for the war effort.

The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, an ABC television series, which ran from October 1954 to May 1959., featured Rin Tin Tin IV as the star.

Duncan died on September 20, 1960 and Ms. Propps took over caring for Rin Tin Tin heirs. When Ms. Propps died on December 17, 1988, Daphne Hereford took over.

On July 8, 2009, Rin Tin Tin XI was born.

The Rin Tin Tin Museum honoring the original Rin Tin Tin and his heirs is located in Latexo, Texas.