Saturday, February 27, 2010

Highland Dale aka Beauty

Highland Dale was a succesful animal actor who worked with Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Graves, Anthony Quinn, Glenn Ford, Ward Bond and Rock Hudson.

Highland Dale was born on March 4, 1943 in Missouri.

Highland Dale was only 18 months old when he was discovered by Ralph McCutcheon a trainer of animal motion picture stars.

He was 26 months old when he made his film debut in Black Beauty (1946) at which time he was renamed Beauty.

His next film was Black Gold (1947). He went on to star in The Return of Wildfire (1948), Black Eagle (1948), The Return of October (1948), Lone Star (1952), Johnny Guitar (1954), Wild is the Wind (1957), and Giant (1956).

In 1955, he was cast as Fury in the television series of the same name. He appeared in 49 episodes from 1955 to 1961.

Beauty was trained on the reward system, with his favorite treat, carrots. His tricks included limping, kneeling, lying down, playing dead, grinning, fetching, untying knots, and opening doors with her mouth.

One of the top paid animal stars, Beauty earned $5000.00 a week.

Beauty passed away in 1972 of natural causes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nipper the RCA Dog

Nipper the Dog was the fox terrier mascot of the RCA Victor company seen in numerous commercials and print ads. Nipper was previously the symbol of the Gramophone Company, and later the Victor Talking Machine Company which became RCA Victor in 1929.

What many people don't know is Nipper was actually a real dog.

Nipper was born in 1884 in Bristol, England. He was found as a stray puppy. Nipper was a mutt, part bull terrier and a trace of fox terrier. He got the name because he like to nip the back of peoples legs, like puppies do.

His first owner, Mark Barraud, died in 1887, Nipper was taken to Liverpool by Mark's younger brother, Francis, who was a struggling painter.

Francis noticed one day that the fox terrier was listening intently, head cocked, to a cylinder phonograph he had playing in his studio, and Francis Barraud "often noticed how puzzled he was to make out where the voice came from."

Barraud commited this scene to memory, because it wasn't until three years after Nipper died, September of 1895, that he painted the scene of Nipper trying to make out where the sounds were originating from.

In 1898 Barraud completed the painting and registered it on 11 February 1899 as 'Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph.'

Francis Barraud then decided to rename the painting 'His Master's Voice' and tried to exhibit it at the Royal Academy, but was turned down. He renamed the painting because "no one would know what the dog was doing" was given as the reason!"

Next on Francis Barraud's list was The Edison Bell Company, leading manufacturer of the cylinder phonograph, ((after did have their phonograph pictured) but again without success. "Dogs don't listen to phonographs," the company said.

Francis Barraud was given the advise to repaint the horn from black to gold, as this might better his opportunity for a sale. With this in mind, in the summer of 1899 he visited the newly formed Gramophone Company, with a photograph of his painting and a request to borrow a brass horn.

As Francis Barraud later wrote in an article for The Strand magazine: "The manager, Mr Barry Owen asked me if the picture was for sale and if I could introduce a machine of their own make, a Gramophone, instead of the one in the picture. I replied that the picture was for sale and that I could make the alteration if they would let me have an instrument to paint from."

The painting was purchased, and by the time of his death on August 29, 1924, Francis Barraud had been commissioned by the Gramophone and Victor companies to make 24 copies of his painting.

The painting made its first public appearance on The Gramophone Company's advertising literature in January 1900, and later on some novelty promotional items. However, 'His Master's Voice' did not feature on the Company's British letter headings until 1907. The painting and title were finally registered as a trademark in 1910.

Emile Berliner brought the painting to the United States, where it was used as his logo, until it was acquired by his successor in America, Eldridge Johnson, who formed the Victor Talking Machine Company, and became the owner of what would become the most famous trademark in the world, and make Nipper the most famous dog in the world.

In 1929, Radio Corporation of America (RCA) purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company. The company then became RCA-Victor. With Victor, RCA acquired New World rights to the famous Nipper trademark.

In 1991, Chipper who was added to the RCA family to be Nipper. Real dogs continue to play the roles of Nipper but have to be replaced frequently, since his character is a puppy.

Currently, the RCA trademark Nipper is owned by the French conglomerate Thomson SA through RCA Trademark Management S.A., a company owned by Thomson. The trademark is used by Sony Music Entertainment and Thomson SA, which licenses the name to other companies like Audiovox and TCL Corporation for products descended from that common ancestor.

Nipper passed away in September of 1895. His burial site, in a garden at Kingston-upon-Thames, in England, is marked with a plaque.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mitzi aka Flipper

Mitzi was born in 1958.

Underwater stuntman Ricou Browning was inspired to create the character of Flipper while watching another animal actor, Pal (aka Lassie) performing. Browning thought of doing something similar to Lassie but about a kid and a dolphin. Browning authored a book and then tried to sell the idea as a movie. He was turn down everywhere he went.

Ivan Tors, producer of Sea Hunt, loved the idea and Tors authorized Browning to find a dolphin for the role of Flipper.

Browning visited aquariums throughout Florida and across the United States in search of a dolphin to star in the film. Most of the dolphins Browning encountered swam away in fear when he entered the water with them.

Browning then heard about Milton Santini a dolphin supplier in the Florida Keys. Santini owned a pet dolphin named Mitzi who was more than willing to share her space of the pool with human beings.

Browning and Tors visited Santini. When Browning entered the pool, Mitzi swam right over to him and even allowed Browning to hold her in his arms. Browning had found his Flipper.

Browning moved to the Florida Keys with his nine year old son, Ricky and began training Mitzi for the required stunts.

Other trainers warned Browning it would take six months to a year to properly train Mitzi. However, Mitzi was a fast learning and quickly learned her stunts.

Mitzi could retrieve balls, sticks and just about any objectthat she was able to carry. She could tow a boat with a rope, hit the water with her tail, and shake hands.

Despite Mitzi's fast learning, she still could not do one important stunt, carrying a boy on her back.

Then Browning had a brilliant idea. What if he used the retrieving behavior to achieve the desired effect? Browning with the assistance of his son, he would pick up Ricky and order Mitzi to fetch. Browning then tossed Ricky into the water, Mitzi swam to grab him holding on to a strap on his clothes. Ricky then grabbed ahold and Mitzi brought him back to the dock.

Once Mitzi had learned all the required tricks and behaviors, filming began. Browning encountered another obstacle. Mitzi was afraid of the buzz made by the underwater cameras. Browning worked with her and Mitzi became acclimated to the sounds within days.

Mitzi appeared in both Flipper (1963) and Flipper's New Adventure (1964). However, when the movie was made into a television series, a different dolphin, Suzy was cast in the role of Flipper.

Mitzi died in 1972 at age fourteen. She is buried at the Dolphin Research Center, where her grave is the first stop on the center's public tours.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Peggy was born in Liberia in 1945.

Peggy made her film debut in 1948 in the film Jungle Jim starring Johnny Weissmuller and Virginia Grey playing Jungle Jim's faithful companion Tamba.

In 1951, Peggy was cast opposite Ronald Reagan in Bedtime for Bonzo. Professor Peter Boyd (Ronald Reagan) tries to teach a chimpanzee called Bonzo (played by Peggy) the concepts of right and wrong in an experiment regarding the merits of nature vs. nurture.

Peggy also appeared as herself on an episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour.

Peggy was very intelligent and had learned to obey 502 oral commands. Peggy was also a very talented chimpanzee. She could do flips in a crib, ride a tricycle, open doors, climb out windows, jump into and out of the back seat of an automobile, remove and replace a necktie.

Ronald Reagan once said that Peggy was a scene stealer, a joy to work with but very unpredictable. Peggy once grabbed Ronald Reagan's necktie and kept pulling almost strangling him.

Peggy was one of the highest paid animal actors in Hollywood, earning a weekly salary of $1000.

Peggy and Ronald Reagan were schedule to host the first PATSY awards in 1951, when tragedy struck.

The World Jungle Compound, where Peggy lived, a fire broke out. Peggy escaped the flames but was over come by smoke inhalation.

For 30 minutes, rescuers made a valiant attempt to resuscitate Peggy. Oxygen was administered and adrenaline was injected into her heart, all to no avail, Peggy died at the age of six.

Peggy's owner, Billy Richards, gave her body to chiropractor William H. Straughn of Sherman Oaks, who had trained at Los Angeles Chiropractic College in Glendale.

William Straughn donated the body to college anatomy professor and chiropractor Arthur Nilsson for use in comparative anatomy studies. It is said that Peggy's body “made an invaluable contribution to extensive research and study of comparative anatomy — a chimp with man."

After Nilsson’s research was completed in 1953, Peggy's skeleton was placed in a glass case in the college’s anatomical museum.