June 4 was the original Lassie’s birthday.
Lassie is a fictional character who was featured in a short story that later became a full-length novel called Lassie Come Home. That was just one of many Lassie books to come.
The books led to movies, a radio show and a long running TV series. And, perhaps, the most memorable line…
The story goes that in 1940, Rudd Weatherwax and his brother, Frank, started the Studio Dog Training School. A man came in with a difficult collie puppy, named Pal. Pal chased motorcycles and chewed everything in sight. Pal stayed with the Weatherwax brothers while they trained him. Meanwhile, the man and his wife grew to like their quiet home life without Pal and told Rudd that he could keep him.
After much training, Rudd read an ad that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was holding auditions for a collie to star in a film.
No! Pal didn’t make the first cut.
However, the dog that MCM chose was petrified by the lights and failed its screen test.
Pal was well trained by now. He jumped into a river, swam to a designated spot, came ashore, and “acted” like an exhausted dog.
He may have jumped into the water as Pal, but he came out as Lassie, becoming a famous movie and TV.
. Lassie was always played by a male dog. That’s because females periodically lose their coats which changes their looks. Plus, a male collie is larger and a young actor can look “small” next to him a long time.
. Lassie was always the star of the show – a critic called him “Greer Garson with fur”.
. When it was time to bring Lassie to TV, Lassie chose which of the three young actors he preferred: Tommy Rettig.
. When Lassie grew older, his stand-in, Lassie Junior took over. But the original Lassie still came to the set where he had his own dog bed.
. Lassie lived to the ripe old age of 18.
. Lassie is one of only three animals, as well as one of the very few fictional characters, to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
. Collies everywhere look to Lassie as their ideal.
. And collie pups want to be just like Lassie when they grow up.