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Tommy Rettig appeared with Lassie Junior (son of Pal, the first film Lassie) in the first three seasons of the American television series (1954'1958), now syndicated as Jeff's Collie

Lassie is a stage name for several dog actors. The fictional character was created by Eric Knight in a short story expanded to novel length called Lassie Come-Home. Published in 1940, the novel was filmed by MGM in 1943 as Lassie Come Home with a talented dog named Pal playing Lassie. Pal then appeared with the stage name "Lassie" in six other MGM feature films through 1951. Pal's owner and trainer Rudd Weatherwax then acquired the Lassie name and trademark from MGM and appeared with Pal (as "Lassie") at rodeos, fairs, and similar events across America in the early 1950s. In 1954, the long running, Emmy winning television series Lassie debuted, and, over the next 19 years, a succession of Pal's descendants appeared on the series. The "Lassie" character has appeared in radio, television, film, toys, comic books, animated series, juvenile novels, and other media. Pal's descendants continue to play Lassie today.[1]


[edit] History

The character of Lassie was created by English American author Eric Knight in Lassie Come-Home, first published as a short story the Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and later as a full-length novel in 1940. Set in the Depression-era England, the novel depicts the lengthy journey a rough collie makes to be reunited with her young Yorkshire master after his family is forced to sell her for money. In 1943, the novel was adapted into a feature film, Lassie Come Home, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) that starred Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie was a hit and enjoyed favorable critical response.[2] MGM followed this with several additional films, including a sequel entitled Son of Lassie (1945), starring Peter Lawford and June Lockhart, and Courage of Lassie with Elizabeth Taylor. A radio series, "Lassie Radio Show likes lassie with his friends" was also created, airing until 1949.

Between 1954'1973, the television series, Lassie was broadcast in America, with Lassie initially residing on a farm with a young male master. In the eleventh season, she changed to adult forestry workers as her companions, then had the collie on her own for awhile before ending the series with Lassie residing at a ranch for troubled children. The long running series was the recipient of two Emmy Awards before it was canceled in 1973. A second series followed in the 1980s. In 1997, Canadian production company Cinar Inc. produced a new Lassie television series for the Animal Planet network in the U.S. and YTV in Canada. It ran until 1999.

In 2005, a remake of the original Lassie Come Home movie was produced in the United Kingdom. Starring Peter O'Toole and Samantha Morton, Lassie was released in 2006.[3]

Lassie continues to make personal appearances as well as marketing a line of pet food and a current pet care TV show, Lassie's Pet Vet on PBS stations in the United States. Lassie is one of only three animals (and one of very few fictional characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny) to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame ' the others being silent-film stars Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart. In 2005, the show business journal Variety named Lassie one of the "100 Icons of all time" ' the only animal star on the list.[4]

[edit] Portrayers

Despite the fact the character Lassie is female, all collies to play Lassie in the television series were male because male collies retain a thicker summer coat than females, which "looks better on television."[5] Also, the male is larger and a child actor can play opposite the dog for longer before outgrowing him.

The first canine actor to play Lassie was Pal, who appeared in seven MGM films between 1943 and 1951, and the two pilots filmed for the 1954 television series before he was retired. Pal was handled by Frank and Rudd Weatherwax, and Frank Inn.[6]

Eight generations of Pal and his descendants portrayed the beloved collie in more than ten movies and two television series, until the late 1990s. Lassie Junior, Spook, Baby, Mire, and Hey Hey played the role of Lassie in the long running television series.

Hey Hey's son Boy played the collie in the 1978 film The Magic of Lassie, and Boy's son The Old Man took up the role of Lassie in the 80s series, The New Lassie of the late-1980s and early 1990s. During this time Rudd Weatherwax died and his son Robert became the handler of Lassie.

The 1997 Lassie series featured eighth generation Pal descendant, Howard as the titular character in the first season, however midway through the production he was replaced with a non-Pal descended dog due to some disputes with the production company. In response to fan outrage, Hey Hey II, a ninth-generation direct descendant of Pal, assumed the role for the final thirteen episodes of the show in 1999. Classic Media acquired the Lassie trademark from the Weatherwax family in 2000, and subsequently ended the contract with the Weatherwaxes to supply descendants of Pal to portray the Lassie character in 2003. In the 2005 Lassie film, a non-Pal bloodline collie named "Mason" was used in the title role.

In late 2005, following the shooting of the movie, Classic Media contracted with Carol Riggins to supply "Hey Hey II", as the ninth generation Lassie in the Pal bloodline. Robert Weatherwax has disputed the use of these collies, claiming that Riggins was violating her purchase contract by breeding Hey Hey II.[7] In the 2006 television series Lassie's Pet Vet, a Pal descendant from the Hey Hey II line appeared with veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber. In January 2008, Lassie 10 (aka Rockie), a 10th generation direct genetic descendant of the original Lassie, was introduced. Although this claim was made to a reporter, no paperwork has ever surfaced to prove Mr. Weatherwax's claim and no legal action was ever taken against Ms. Riggins.

Mr. Weatherwax is listed as SAG retired in 2004 and is no longer involved with Lassie in any way.

[edit] Media

[edit] Film

Year Title Role Notes
1943 Lassie Come Home Lassie Principal role played by Pal
1945 Son of Lassie Laddie Principal role played by Pal
1946 Courage of Lassie Bill Principal role played by Pal
1948 Hills of Home Lass Principal role played by Pal
1949 The Sun Comes Up Lassie Principal role played by Pal
1950 Challenge to Lassie Lassie Principal role played by Pal
1951 The Painted Hills Shep Principal role played by Pal
1963 Lassie's Great Adventure Lassie Principal role; a compilation of television episodes
1978 The Magic of Lassie Lassie Principal role played by Boy
1994 Lassie Lassie Principal role played by Howard
2005 Lassie Lassie Principal role played by Mason, a USA farm Bred Collie

[edit] Radio

Year Title Role Notes
1947'1948 Lassie Show Lassie Principal role; ABC series
1948'1950 Lassie Show Lassie Principal role; NBC series

[edit] Television

Year Title Role Notes
1954'1973 Lassie Lassie Principal role
1968 The Adventures of Neeka Lassie Principal role; TV film; a compilation of television episodes
1970 Peace is Our Profession Lassie Principal role; TV film; a compilation of TV episodes
1970 Well of Love Lassie Principal role; TV film, a compilation of TV episodes
1972 Sound of Joy Lassie Principal role; TV film; a compilation of TV episodes
1972 Lassie and the Spirit of Thunder Mountain Lassie Principal role; animated TV film
1972 Lassie's Rescue Rangers Lassie Principal role; animated series
1989'1991 The New Lassie Lassie Principal role; first-run syndication
1997'1999 Lassie Lassie Principal role
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
1996 Meiken Lassie Lassie Principal role; animated series
Lassie's Pet Vet

[edit] Books

  • Lassie Come-Home
  • Lassie
  • Lassie: A Dog's Life
  • The Lassie Method
  • Magic of Lassie
  • Painted Hills
  • The Story of Lassie
  • Lassie: A Christmas Story
  • Challenge to Lassie
  • The Sun Comes Up
  • Lassie: The Prize
  • Forest Ranger Handbook
  • Lassie: A Boy's Best Friend & Buried Treasure
  • Lassie: Party Nightmare & Water Watchdog
  • Lassie: Skateboard Stunt & Danger Zone

Seafarer Books

  • Lassie and the Lost Little Sheep
  • Lassie's Forest Adventure

Whitman Cozy-Corner

  • Lassie: Rescue in the Storm

Whitman Novels

  • Lassie and the Mystery of Blackberry Bog
  • Lassie and the Secret of the Summer
  • Lassie: Forbidden Valley
  • Lassie: Treasure Hunter
  • Lassie: the Wild Mountain Trail
  • Lassie and the Mystery of Bristlecone Pine
  • Lassie and the Secret of the Smelter's Cave
  • Lassie: Lost in the Snow
  • Lassie: Trouble at Panter's Lake

Big Little Books

  • Lassie: Adventure in Alaska
  • Lassie and the Shabby Sheik
  • Lassie: Old One Eye

Golden Books

  • The Adventures of Lassie
  • Lassie and Her Day in the Sun
  • Lassie and Her Friends
  • Lassie and the Big Clean-Up Day
  • Lassie and the Daring Rescue
  • Lassie and the Lost Explorer
  • Lassie Shows the Way
  • Lassie: The Great Escape

Tell-a-Tale Books

  • Hooray for Lassie!
  • Lassie and the Cub Scout
  • Lassie and the Deer Mystery
  • Lassie and the Firefighters
  • Lassie and the Kittens
  • Lassie Finds a Friend
  • Lassie's Brave Adventure
  • Lassie: The Busy Morning

Tip-Top Books

  • Lassie: The Sandbar Rescue

Wonder Books

  • Lassie's Long Trip

Marian Bray

  • Lassie to the Rescue
  • Lassie: Hayloft Hideout
  • Lassie Under the Big Top
  • Lassie: Treasure at Eagle Mountain
  • Lassie: Danger at Echo Cliffs

The New Lassie

  • The Puppy Problem
  • Digging Up Danger
  • The Big Blowup
  • Water Watchdog
  • Skateboard Dare
  • Dangerous Party

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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