"The saga of Rin Tin Tin begins in 1918 when army gun-mechanic Lee Duncan ventures out on a battlefield to inspect the ruins of an abandoned German encampment. There, in a kennel full of 20 slaughtered dogs, he hears the sound of whimpering, and finds himself rescuing a frantic female German Shepherd and her litter of five. 'From the moment he found these puppies, Lee considered himself a lucky man,' writes [Susan] Orlean.
[...] Critics raved about [Rin Tin Tin's] unusual ability to act — or at least to appear to convey emotion on film. Some called him the Barrymore of dogdom. (These were the days of silent film, where a lot was read into an empathetic facial expression.) But like so many of his species, Rin Tin Tin excelled as an exceptional action-adventure star, able to leap effortlessly from one roof top to another and over walls. He could outrun horses, he could even climb trees. Unsurprisingly, every kid wanted a dog like Rinty. [...]
By 1927 Rinty was not only designated 'the most popular performer in the U.S.' but was also named as the correspondent in the divorce between Duncan and his wife, who told the Los Angeles Times: 'All he cared for was Rin Tin Tin.' When the dog died in 1932, Duncan buried him in a bronze casket in his backyard with a simple cross."—Merrill Markoe, Los Angeles Review of Books
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