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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lassie or Rinty? Lassie was Fiction--Rinty was Real!

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the LegendRin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ah Rusty and Rinty--yes, pals of my childhood--and the reason I was thrilled to win this book in a Goodreads firstreads giveaway. The story was interesting and well-written but about halfway through--around the time the TV show which most of us remember was taking off--I started to get bored. The information about Lee Duncan, the man who found the original Rin Tin Tin in France towards the end of WWI, became repetitive and boring. But then, the story of the dog was no longer the story of just one dog and in many ways not even the story of the Real Rinty.

Orlean does a fine job of describing the changing times in America from the euphoria and youth of a country just over a major war, through a depression, the transition from silent films to talkies to TV to whatever our entertainment forms are today. What left me at a loss was any real depth in the description of Lee Duncan and his life. What was his personality like--other than self-effacing and obsessed with a dog and its legacy? Who were his friends? How in heavens name did his wife, Eva, ever meet much less become such good friends with Helen Reddy that she, as a new widow, travelled the world with her? There is more information about Bert, the man behind the TV program, and Daphne, a Texas woman who apparently still breeds Rinty descendents, than about the man who started the whole legend by rescuing an orphaned French puppy.

I finished the book with a sense that, though it is almost 300 pages long, there are many, many loose ends. And though Orlean feels that she, too, has become part of the obsessive movement to assure that there is always a Rin Tin Tin, my feeling is that, unless Disney or some other major studio makes a new successful series of movies with the beloved character, Rin Tin Tin will go the way of StrongHeart--remembered by baby boomers but will die with them. Sad but the way of the world.

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  1. Maybe it would be good for the German Shepherd dog as a breed if good ol' Rinty sank into memory. Look what happened with Dalmatians when Disney got hold of them...gazillions of them bred and bought as puppies and then they grew into (gasp!) dogs.

  2. So true--similar thing happened with GS with the original RTT and also with collies with Lassie. Even more upsetting though is the inbreeding to produce " desirable " traits in purebreds of all sorts resulting in horribly debilitating traits in the animal. For example, GS were bred to have a sloping back--so that they would have a longer gliding stride and stronger haunches for launching into leaps. Resulted in weak hindquarters that caused all kinds of pain and crippling in older dogs. Not to mention the " desirable " narrow head and muzzle in collies which did a great job on their brain cases. Unbelieveable.