Vitagraph Dog

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Jean, the Vitagraph Dog
Jean c. 1911
Species Dog
Breed Border Collie
Sex Female
Died 1916
Occupation Dog actor
Years active 1908-1913
Employer Vitagraph Studios
Owner Laurence Trimble

Jean, the Vitagraph Dog (190? - 1916), a female Border Collie, was a dog actor that performed title roles in early silent films. She was the first canine star in the United States having been preceded by the first, Blair, Cecil Hepworth's dog, in England. She however was the first canine to have her name in the title of her films. She was a precursor to other famous U.S. dog actors like Teddy, the Sennett Dog, Pete the Pup, Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin.[1] [2]

Biography and career[edit]

Around 1906, Maine resident and aspiring writer Laurence Trimble moved to New York City with his dog, Jean. An article he sold to a local magazine paved the way for the two of them to visit Vitagraph Studios to do a story on film making. Trimble and his pet just happened to be on the set at a time when the company needed a dog to play opposite Florence Turner ("the Vitagraph Girl"). As a result, dog and master were asked to stay and both became members of the Vitagraph stock company.

Jean became quite popular and was soon known as "the Vitagraph Dog", starring in her own films along with "the Vitagraph Girl" all directed by Larry Trimble. One- and two-reelers with titles such as, Jean and the Calico Doll, Jean and the Waif, and Jean Goes Fishing were made by Trimble as their troupe filmed along the coastline in his native Maine.

By 1910, Trimble became Florence Turner's exclusive director and continued to make films with his lucky pet, Jean, until 1913, when Trimble, Turner, and Jean left Vitagraph and started up Turner Films, Ltd. in England. World War I interrupted most of their work and, in 1916, Trimble returned to the states. That same year, Jean died.

Trimble worked with another dog, Strongheart, in the pictures, but eventually retired at age 40 and became a trainer of guide dogs for the blind. Nearly all of Jean's Vitagraph films are now lost with the exceptions of one film dating from 1908 (see article on Jean and Trimble below), "Jean the Match-maker" (1910), and Jean Rescues (1911) in paper print at the Library of Congress.


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