Rin Tin Tin’s bio shared at OCL by Susan Orlean

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Author and journalist Susan Orlean spoke at two OCL programs yesterday (Manchester and Toms River) about her latest book, “Rin Tin Tin.”

The biography of cinema’s early matinee idol took her a decade to write. It was the surprises she uncovered as she conducted her research that made the project special for her and kept her searching for more information about a dog she was fond of while she was a child.

Orlean found Rin Tin Tin was a metaphor for the change in American culture during the 1920s and 30s.

“Following World War I the world was ready for a hero,” she said during the program in Manchester. Rin Tin Tin, with his daring performances and an authenticity that mimicked what people aspired to be, filled that need.

Rin Tin Tin was rescued from a French World War I battlefield when he was three days old by Lee Duncan. Rin Tin Tin made his movie debut in 1922 when he stepped in for a reluctant wolf in “The Man From Hell’s River.”

Nicknamed “The Mortgage Lifter” because of his star drawing power, he went on to star in 18 additional movies for Warner Brothers.

However, as popular as he was, the movie studio retired him when movies took a major evolutionary leap and produced “talkies,” movies with sound and dialogue. Duncan and Rin Tin Tin took to the road and performed in vaudeville and movie shorts.

Rin Tin Tin died in August 1932 at the age of 13.

Since his death there has been a succession of Rin Tin Tins from his blood line that have appeared in film and television.

Lee Duncan died September 20, 1960.

For Orlean and much of the nation, the love affair with Rin Tin Tin has not died. The dog actor is still popular with people.  

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