Saturday, January 2, 2010

Spike (Old Yeller)

Spike was a Black Mouth Cur and a dog actor best known for his performance as Old Yeller in the 1957 Disney film of the same name.

Spike was a large, yellow, flop eared pup, with extra large feet living at the Van Nuys Animal Shelter. Bill McNally saw him and told Frank Weathermax about the dog. Frank Weathermax was an animal trainer who had trained Pal (aka Lassie), Terry (Toto) and Skippy (aka Asta).

Frank Weathermax felt the dog looked intelligent so Frank rescued him for three dollars.

At first, Spike didn't show signs of greatness. He appeared clumsy and ungainly. His bark was more of a yelp. But Spike readily to training and was always ready to please his master. Overnight he seemed to grow into his feet and develop a mature bark.

Frank Weatherwax' wife, Connie, a regular reader of the Saturday Evening Post, read a three part story called "Old Yeller" by Fred Gibson. After reading the description of the dog and seeing the illustrations, she thought of Spike. The next day when Frank Weatherwax picked up the mail he opened the Hollywood Reporter and read that Walt Disney had bought the movie rights to Old Yeller. At Connie's urging Frank called the Disney Studios and arranged to show Spike.

At first, Disney did not like Spike. Spike had been raised around children and was used to playing and having fun. He did not know how to act vicious. Frank saw potential in this big, goofy yellow dog. After a little extra training, Spike nailed the part, becoming one of the most memorable dogs in screen history.

"Old Yeller" is not the only movie Spike has done. He was also in A Dog of Flanders (1959) and in several episodes of the television series The Westerner.

Spikes son played "Rontu" in Island of the Blue Dolphins (1964), and his grandson appeared with Steve McQueen and Robert Preston in Junior Bonner (1972).

1 comment:

  1. Old Yeller is my all-time favorite movie when I was a kid, Spike is my most favorite animal actor, He gets different roles in films and television, Spike played as King: The She-Creature (1956), Brown: The Westerner (1960) and Pete: The Silent Call (1961). After his role in "Old Yeller", he appeared on one episode from the 1950's television show, "The Mickey Mouse Club". I love the best doggone dog, FYI, I'm a HUGE fan of Spike.