The Story of Rin Tin Tin

Few dogs have as great a reputation, or as storied a past, as Rin Tin Tin. The story goes that near the end of World War 1, U.S. Army corporal Lee Duncan discovered a badly damaged kennel in the French village of Filrey; this kennel had previously supplied the German military with German Shepherd dogs. Only a few of the dogs were left, including a mother who, though starving, attempted to nurse her litter of five. Corporal Duncan rescued the dog, brought them back ot his unit, and he kept two of them. He named them Rin Tin Tin and Nanette, and thus began the legend.

The Start of a Legend

When Duncan returned to the United States, he had the dogs trained by a professional dog trainer who specialized in raising police dogs, but unfortunately, Nanette contracted pneumonia and passed away, but Rin Tin Tin lived on. Duncan befriended an actor named Eugene Palette in Los Angeles who ended up teaching Rin Tin Tin a number of tricks, leading to him performing in dog shows, though in fact, not very well! Later, Duncan worked to make Rin Tin Tin into a movie star similar to Strongheart, another very famous canine film star.


Duncan eventually got Rin Tin Tin in his first starring role in the film Where the North Begins, a silent film that was a very large success, and which saw more than twenty more screen appearances for Rin Tin Tin. Endorsement deals were sought after, and it’s said that Rin Tin Tin’s career saved Warner Bros. from bankruptcy, his films were so successful! In 1932, Rin Tin Tin passed away, with at least 48 puppies to his name.

His death was mourned across the country, as everyone knew who Rin Tin Tin was, everyone had seen him and cared for him, and many were saddened by his passing. Indeed, the success of his films overseas (silent films are easily ported to foreign audiences) meant that people around the entire world mourned his passing. It’s an incredible story – from a kennel pup in a bombed out shelter to one of the biggest movie stars of his time, Rin Tin Tin’s story is truly a legend.