Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2015

Rin Tin Tin at the Lighthouse

By Timothy Harrison


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Some of our readers are old enough to remember the popular TV show The Adventures Rin Tin Tin that aired on ABC-TV from 1954 to 1959 and in reruns as late as the 1980s. The popular show was about an orphaned boy who lived at Fort Apache and, along with his trusted German Shepherd dog named Rin Tin Tin helped to tame the Wild West. However, it is unlikely that anyone reading Lighthouse Digest today saw a movie with the original dog Rin Tin Tin in it.

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The original dog named Rin Tin Tin, sometimes spelled Rin-Tin-Tin, was a German Shepherd who was rescued in 1918 by American soldier Lee Duncan from the battlefields of Europe. Duncan, who trained the dog, brought it back to the United States. He felt that the dog was smart enough to be in the movies and he campaigned for the dog’s roles. His first big break came in 1922 in the silent film The Man From Hell’s River. Other movies followed, including the smash 1924 silent movie hit, The Lighthouse By The Sea, which billed itself as “Action In Dynamite Doses.” In that silent film, Warner Brothers billed Rin Tin Tin as “The Wonder Dog – Greatest Canine Actor Ever Screened.” In 1929 in the voting for the very first Academy Awards, Rin Tin Tin received the most votes for Best Actor. However, the Academy Awards committee decided that a human should get the award and Rin Tin Tin’s name was removed from the list and the ballots were recast.

There are several original prints of The Lighthouse by the Sea in private collections and there is one in the Library of Congress. A DVD of the silent movie may still be available from Grapevine Video or you might find it on one of the Internet auction sites.

It is highly unlikely that any artifacts from the film survived, but wouldn’t it be neat if some were still around in a Warner Brothers warehouse, such as the lens from the lighthouse that was used in the movie?

Rin Tin Tin died in 1968, but his offspring live on to this day.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2015 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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