As dog actors go, Rin Tin Tin - aka “America’s greatest movie dog”, “the king of pets” and, our favourite, “the wonder dog of all creation” - takes some beating. Don’t believe us? You be the judge.
He was a war veteran.
Admittedly, he started out on the wrong side — Rin Tin Tin was discovered as a puppy in 1918 in a bombed-out German encampment in Fluiry, France — but he switched allegiance after being rescued by his lifelong owner Lee Duncan, a US soldier at the time.
He was the ultimate stunt dog.
Rin Tin Tin starred in 23 silent movies and was filmed in such daring exploits as riding a horse, driving an aquaplane, fighting wolves, climbing trees, operating a crane, and — in one extraordinary piece of doggy mechanics — halting a flood by operating a dam.
He was the finest actor of his generation.
At least he would have been if the votes for Best Actor at the inaugural Oscars in 1927 weren’t recast because organisers feared giving the prize to a dog would diminish their credibility. The prize went to German actor Emil Jannings, who must have felt pretty special when he found out.
He was an upstanding citizen.
Rin Tin Tin was a frequent visitor to orphanages and was a recipient of the Abraham Lincoln humanitarian award and medal for distinguished service. Less upstandingly, he was named as a co-respondent in Duncan’s divorce from his first wife, a role usually filled by a mistress.
He was immortal.
Make that is. Like Kim Il-sung, the spirit of Rin Tin Tin has been reincarnated in his progeny, first Rin Tin Tin Jr, who continued the acting tradition, right through to the current Rin Tin Tin XI, or to use his official snappy pedigree name: Rin Tin Tins Rin-Tin-Tin. Long may he thrive.
As gleaned from Susan Orlean’s new biography, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend (Atlantic), out 1 February