Lassie

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This article is about the fictional rough collie dog character. For other uses, see Lassie (disambiguation).
Tommy Rettig appeared with Lassie Junior (son of Pal, the first film Lassie) in the first three seasons of the American television series (1954–1957), now syndicated as Jeff's Collie

Lassie is a fictional female collie dog character created by Eric Knight in a short story expanded to novel length called Lassie Come-Home. However, Knight may have been influenced by another female collie named Lassie, featured in the 1859 story "The Half-brothers" written by British writer Elizabeth Gaskell. "The Half-brothers" is a short, sentimental story in which a female border collie named Lassie, loved only by her young master, saves the day.

Published in 1940, Knight's novel was filmed by MGM in 1943 as Lassie Come Home with a dog named Pal playing Lassie. Pal then appeared with the stage name "Lassie" in six other MGM feature films through 1951. Pal's owner and trainer Rudd Weatherwax then acquired the Lassie name and trademark from MGM and appeared with Pal (as "Lassie") at rodeos, fairs, and similar events across America in the early 1950s. In 1954, the long-running, Emmy winning television series Lassie debuted, and, over the next 19 years, a succession of Pal's descendants appeared on the series. The "Lassie" character has appeared in radio, television, film, toys, comic books, animated series, juvenile novels, and other media. Pal's descendants continue to play Lassie today.[1]

History[edit]

Further information: Rough Collie

An early depiction of Lassie is found in British writer Elizabeth Gaskell's 1859 short story "The Half-brothers". In the story, Lassie is described as a female collie with "intelligent, apprehensive eyes" who rescues two half-brothers who are lost and dying in the snow. When the younger brother can no longer carry on, elder brother Gregory, Lassie's master, ties a handkerchief around Lassie's neck and sends her home. Lassie arrives home, and leads the search party to the boys. When they arrive Gregory is dead, but his younger half-brother is saved. Thus, Gaskell apparently originated the character Lassie, and at the same time defined the "Lassie saves the day" storyline that is the essence of subsequent Lassie tales.

According to writer Nigel Clarke in the "Shipwreck Guide to Dorset and South Devon", the original Lassie who inspired so many films and television episodes was a rough-haired crossbreed who saved the life of a sailor during World War I.

Half collie, Lassie was owned by the landlord of the Pilot Boat, a pub in the port of Lyme Regis. On New Year’s Day in 1915 the Royal Navy battleship "Formidable" was torpedoed by a German submarine off Start Point in South Devon, with the loss of more than 500 men. In a storm that followed the accident, a life raft containing bodies was blown along the coast to Lyme Regis. In helping to deal with the crisis, the local pub in Lyme Regis, called the Pilot Boat, offered its cellar as a mortuary.

When the bodies had been laid out on the stone floor, Lassie, a crossbred collie owned by the pub owner, found her way down amongst the bodies, and she began to lick the face of one of the victims, Able Seaman John Cowan. She stayed beside him for more than half an hour, nuzzling him and keeping him warm with her fur. To everyone’s astonishment, Cowan eventually stirred. He was taken to hospital and went on to make a full recovery. He visited Lassie again when he returned to thank all who saved his life.

The sinking of the ship was a severe blow to Britain during these early years of the war. When the officers heard the story of Lassie and what she did to rescue Cowan, they told it again and again to any reporter who would listen as it was inspirational and heart-warming. Hollywood got hold of the story, and so a star was born.

The fictional character of Lassie was created by English American author Eric Knight in Lassie Come-Home, first published as a short story in The Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and later as a full-length novel in 1940. Set in the Depression-era England, the novel depicts the lengthy journey a rough collie makes to be reunited with her young Yorkshire master after his family is forced to sell her for money. In 1943, the novel was adapted into a feature film, Lassie Come Home, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) that starred Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie was a hit and enjoyed favorable critical response.[2] MGM followed this with several additional films, including a sequel entitled Son of Lassie (1945), starring Peter Lawford and June Lockhart, and Courage of Lassie with Elizabeth Taylor. A radio series, Lassie Radio Show, was also created, airing until 1949.

Between 1954–1973, the television series, Lassie was broadcast, with Lassie initially residing on a farm with a young male master. In the eleventh season, it changed to U.S. Forest Service rangers as her companions, then the collie was on her own for a season before ending the series with Lassie residing at a ranch for orphaned children. The long-running series was the recipient of two Emmy Awards before it was canceled in 1973. A second series followed in the 1980s. In 1997, Canadian production company Cinar Inc. produced a new Lassie television series for the Animal Planet network in the U.S. and YTV in Canada. It ran until 1999.

In 2005, a remake of the original Lassie Come Home movie was produced in the United Kingdom. Starring Peter O'Toole and Samantha Morton, Lassie was released in 2006.[3]

Lassie continues to make personal appearances as well as marketing a line of pet food and a current pet care TV show, Lassie's Pet Vet on PBS stations in the United States. Lassie is one of only three animals (and one of very few fictional characters, such as Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog, and Bugs Bunny) to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—the others being silent-film stars Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart. In 2005, the show business journal Variety named Lassie one of the "100 Icons of the Century"—the only animal star on the list.[4]

Media[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1943 Lassie Come Home Lassie Principal role played by Pal
1945 Son of Lassie Laddie Principal role played by Pal
1946 Courage of Lassie Bill Principal role played by Pal
1948 Hills of Home Lass Principal role played by Pal
1949 The Sun Comes Up Lassie Principal role played by Pal
1950 Challenge to Lassie Lassie Principal role played by Pal
1963 Lassie's Great Adventure Lassie Principal role; a compilation of television episodes
1978 The Magic of Lassie Lassie Principal role played by Boy
1994 Lassie Lassie Principal role played by Howard
2005 Lassie Lassie Principal role played by Mason, a USA farm Bred Collie

Action role played by DR Dakota, a USA farm Bred Collie

Box office performance[edit]

Title Year Worldwide Gross
Lassie Come Home 1943 $4,517,000
Son of Lassie 1945 TBA
Courage of Lassie 1946 $4,100,000
Hills of Home 1948 $2,312,000
The Sun Comes Up 1949 $2,044,000
Challenge to Lassie 1949 $1,155,000
The Magic of Lassie 1978 TBA
Lassie (1994) 1994 $9,979,683
Lassie (2005) 2005 $6,442,854
Total $30,550,537

Radio[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1947–1948 Lassie Show Lassie Principal role; ABC series
1948–1950 Lassie Show Lassie Principal role; NBC series

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1954–1973 Lassie Lassie Principal role
1968 The Adventures of Neeka Lassie Principal role; TV film; a compilation of television episodes
1970 Peace is Our Profession Lassie Principal role; TV film; a compilation of TV episodes
1970 Well of Love Lassie Principal role; TV film, a compilation of TV episodes
1972 Sound of Joy Lassie Principal role; TV film; a compilation of TV episodes
1972 Lassie and the Spirit of Thunder Mountain Lassie Principal role; animated TV film
1972 Lassie's Rescue Rangers Lassie Principal role; animated series
1980 Taxi Lassie Cameo Appearance
1989–1991 The New Lassie Lassie Principal role; first-run syndication
1997–1999 Lassie Lassie Principal role
2001 Whose Line Is It Anyway? Lassie Cameo Appearance
1996 Famous Dog Lassie Lassie Principal role; animated series
2007 Lassie's Pet Vet
2014 The New Adventures of Lassie Lassie Parker Principal role; animated series

Books[edit]

  • Lassie Come-Home
  • Lassie: The Prize
  • Forest Ranger Handbook
  • Lassie: A Boy's Best Friend & Buried Treasure
  • Lassie: Party Nightmare & Water Watchdog
  • Lassie: Skateboard Stunt & Danger Zone

Seafarer Books

  • Lassie and the Lost Little Sheep
  • Lassie's Forest Adventure

Whitman Cozy-Corner

  • Lassie: Rescue in the Storm

Whitman Novels

  • Lassie and the Mystery of Blackberry Bog
  • Lassie and the Secret of the Summer
  • Lassie: Forbidden Valley
  • Lassie: Treasure Hunter
  • Lassie: the Wild Mountain Trail
  • Lassie and the Mystery of Bristlecone Pine
  • Lassie and the Secret of the Smelter's Cave
  • Lassie: Lost in the Snow
  • Lassie: Trouble at Panter's Lake

Big Little Books

  • Lassie: Adventure in Alaska
  • Lassie and the Shabby Sheik
  • Lassie: Old One Eye

Golden Books

  • The Adventures of Lassie
  • Lassie and Her Day in the Sun
  • Lassie and Her Friends
  • Lassie and the Big Clean-Up Day
  • Lassie and the Daring Rescue
  • Lassie and the Lost Explorer
  • Lassie Shows the Way
  • Lassie: The Great Escape

Tell-a-Tale Books

  • Hooray for Lassie!
  • Lassie and the Cub Scout
  • Lassie and the Deer Mystery
  • Lassie and the Firefighters
  • Lassie and the Kittens
  • Lassie Finds a Friend
  • Lassie's Brave Adventure
  • Lassie: The Busy Morning

Tip-Top Books

  • Lassie: The Sandbar Rescue

Wonder Books

  • Lassie's Long Trip

Marian Bray

  • Lassie to the Rescue
  • Lassie: Hayloft Hideout
  • Lassie Under the Big Top
  • Lassie: Treasure at Eagle Mountain
  • Lassie: Danger at Echo Cliffs

The New Lassie

  • The Puppy Problem
  • Digging Up Danger
  • The Big Blowup
  • Water Watchdog
  • Skateboard Dare
  • Dangerous Party

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Lassie: The Perfect Dog Sets High Bar for Real Pups". NPR. Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  2. ^ Variety Staff (January 1, 1943). "Lassie Come Home". Variety. 
  3. ^ Philip Potempa (August 11, 2006). "Latest Lassie busy promoting new film". Northwest Indiana Times. 
  4. ^ Variety Staff (October 16, 2005). "100 Icons of the Century: Lassie". Variety. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 

External links[edit]