Our Four Favorite Canine Entertainment Legends
With social distancing in full effect, now is the perfect time to cuddle up with your pup and some Bonne Et Filou luxury treats to watch the real movie stars in action - the canines! All throughout cinematic history, dogs have been a beloved part of our entertainment. Take a look at this list of our four favorite canine actors:
Toto - The Wizard of Oz
Rags - Bright Eyes
Terry the Cairn Terrier is one of the most beloved, celebrated, and well-known canines in all of film history. Sadly abandoned by her original family, Terry was taken in by Carl Spitz and his wife. Carl had trained military dogs during WWI, and owned Carl Spitz’s Hollywood Dog Training School. Terry showed an incredible ability to learn, and through training was able to shed some of her overwhelming insecurities and anxieties. Her charming personality first won over young actress Shirley Temple, and she starred as ‘Rags’ in the Shirley Temple film Bright Eyes.
In 1939, Terry had her big break that would ultimately catapult her into Hollywood stardom when she beat out hundreds of other dogs - and claimed the heart of Judy Garland - for the role of ‘Toto’ in The Wizard of Oz. Following the release of the film, Terry was officially renamed Toto by her parents and lived out the rest of her days with them on their ten-acre land. Having made over 10 films in her career, Terry is memorialized in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Buddy - Air Bud
Almost as if it was an exact recreation from the film, dog trainer Kevin di Cicco first discovered bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Golden Retriever, Buddy, when he wandered out of the woods in the Sierra Nevada mountains while di Cicco was on a camping trip in 1989. Di Cicco brought him home, and their amazing life journey began. He noticed rather quickly that Buddy seemed to have an obsession with balls. One day when di Cicco was shooting hoops in his front yard, after witnessing Buddy constantly chase after the ball and hit it with his nose, he realized that Buddy could actually make a basket if he tossed him the ball a certain way. And so, this four-legged basketball star was born!
When the producers of Air Bud first saw Buddy’s incredible talents during an appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” they knew they had very well likely found their star. They brought Buddy in for an audition, and at first, were highly skeptical of his abilities. However, once they saw him sink basket after basket from all areas of the court, the decision was made.
During the filming of Air Bud, in order for the ball to be able to spin off of Buddy’s mouth, it was deflated slightly and covered in olive oil. Although the film didn’t end up winning over much favor from critics, it was a box office success and led the way for several sequels to follow. Air Bud was the only film for Buddy, however, and his only other role was as the beloved family dog ‘Comet’ in Full House. He was nominated twice for Favorite Animal Star at the Kids’ Choice Awards, and his television debut was actually on America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Di Cicco went on to teach Buddy several different sports, including football, soccer, and hockey. Sadly, Buddy developed synovial cell sarcoma in his right hind leg soon after filming on Air Bud ended, and it had to be amputated. He passed away peacefully in his sleep in February of 1998.
Beethoven - Beethoven
In 1992, trainer Carl Miller had all but given up hope searching for the rambunctious dog to play the titular character in Beethoven; that is, until he met 2-year-old St. Bernard, Chris. The role of ‘Beethoven’ required Chris to perform a myriad of tricks, tricks that Chris excelled at and which led him to play Beethoven again in the sequel film.
Audiences fell so in love with the canine terror that he was named the public’s favorite movie dog by MovieTickets.com a shocking 18 years after the first Beethoven was released. Interestingly, although Chris weighed around 200 pounds once he was full-grown, he only weighed about 156 pounds during filming. Shortly after filming was completed on Beethoven II, Chris passed away surrounded by his family.
Lassie - Lassie
Pal was born in 1940 to a litter at Gladis Collies, and right from the get-go proved to be quite the handful. Deciding that Pal was much more “pet quality” than “show dog,” his owner took him to Rudd and Frank Weatherwax’s Studio Dog Training School. The Weatherwax kennel at this point already had around 40 dogs, many of which worked in the film industry, however, Pal initially became just the family pet as there weren’t any casting calls looking for Collies at the time.
Not long after, MGM started holding auditions for dogs - specifically Collies - to star in their new film. After passing on 300 other dogs up for the role, Rudd took Pal to meet the director in person, Fred M. Wilcox and claimed the title role of ‘Lassie’ in Lassie. Pal instantly became a star, and due to the success of the film, he went on to star in six more MGM films throughout his life. Pal also went on to star as Lassie in several television pilots, and to this day, every dog who has played Lassie has been a direct descendent of Pal. One rather astounding fact is that Pal actually earned more in the film Lassie than his co-star, Elizabeth Taylor!
Fans of the Lassie film and television shows will recognize one of the most iconic maneuvers that Lassie demonstrates is taking the arm of her owner and leading them back home when they go astray. This move was one that Pal actually learned as the Weatherwax’s family pet: Rudd trained Pal to find his son, Bob, whenever he roamed too far away and to bring him back home. Pal continued to live with Rudd Weatherwax until he passed away at 18 years-old in 1958. He is buried on the Weatherwax ranch property.
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