What’s your favorite dog movie? Maybe it’s Marley and Me, if you like tearjerkers, or a feel-good 90’s comedy like Beethoven or Air Bud. While the dogs in these films were certainly popular, they would hardly be considered stars next to Terry and Pal, better known as Toto and Lassie. Here are the all-time biggest canine stars of the big screen:
Photo by Everett Collection / Rex Features
- Rin Tin Tin from over 25 films (1920s)
Rin Tin Tin was a real dog who lived decades before the show The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin appeared on 1950s televisions. An American WWI soldier rescued Rin Tin Tin, a male German Shepherd Dog, from a bombed kennel in France. Rin Tin Tin went on to work in silent movies, and helped to establish Warner Brothers Studios as a powerhouse. The dog even had his own radio show, and did his own sound effects. He was making $6,000 a week during his heyday – a vast sum for a human today, let alone a dog in the 1920s. According to legend, Rin Tin Tin should have won the very first Oscar for Best Actor in 1929, but the Academy decided dogs were not eligible. He was so famous that newspapers ran his obituary in 1932. You can read more about Rin Tin Tin in Susan Orlean’s book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend.
- Toto from The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Dorothy’s little dog, Toto, was played by a female Cairn terrier named Terry, who was featured in more than a dozen other films. Her owner, Carl Spitz, founded the Hollywood Dog Training School in 1927. He refused Judy Garland’s offer to adopt Terry after the dog spent two weeks at her home recovering from an on-set injury. Terry’s name was officially changed to Toto in 1942 to reflect her iconic role.
- Lassie from the Lassie movies (1940s-1950s)
A male Rough Collie named Pal played Lassie in 7 movies and the pilot episodes of the TV show. Pal was actually cast as a stunt dog in the first Lassie movie, Lassie Come Home (1943), but ended up impressing the studio so much, they gave him the part instead. Pal’s son, Lassie Junior, played Lassie on TV after Pal retired. His trainer, Rudd Weatherwax, and a co-author wrote a book called The Story of Lassie: His Discovery and Training from Puppyhood to Stardom. Weatherwax was reportedly so devoted to Pal that he could not bear to watch the Lassie movies after Pal’s death.
- Jack the Dog from The Artist (2011)
Jack the Dog was played by a Jack Russell named Uggie, who also played Queenie in the movie Water for Elephants. Uggie was the first dog to have his paw prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Fans launched Facebook campaign to get him awarded an Oscar for his scene-stealing role in the silent film The Artist. If you are interested in reading more about Uggie, you can read his memoir. (No, really. It’s called Uggie: My Story.) He died in August 2015 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
So there you have it, folks: the most famous Hollywood canines of all-time. And don’t worry – we haven’t forgotten about Odie, Snoopy, Scooby, and Eddie from Frasier. We’ll be doing a separate post about famous cartoon and TV dogs, so if you’ve got a favorite we just have to include, let us know in the comments!