Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

By Susan Orlean

Rin Tin Tin, the smart, athletic German shepherd who became “the archetypal dog hero,” was born on a battlefield in France in 1918 and rescued by Lee Duncan, an American soldier. Duncan, whose love for animals was rooted in a childhood of abandonment, brought Rin Tin Tin to California, where diligent training, talent, and luck turned “Rinty” into a universally beloved movie star. The Rin Tin Tin character lived on after the original dog’s death in 1932 (the world mourned) as Duncan, utterly devoted to his creation, worked with a series of German shepherds to keep Rin Tin Tin in the movies and on television for nearly four more decades. In her first from-scratch investigative book since The Orchid Thief (1999), New Yorker staff writer Orlean incisively chronicles every facet of the never-before-told, surprisingly consequential, and roller-coaster–like Rin Tin Tin saga, including the rapid evolution of the film and television industries, the rise of American pet culture, how Americans heeded the military’s call and sent their dogs into combat during WWII, and even what the courageous canine meant to her own family. Orlean’s engrossing, dynamic, and affecting biography of a dog who became an icon of loyalty and valor will reignite Rin Tin Tin fever in yet another time when heroes are in acute demand.

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