Jean (dog)

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Jean, the Vitagraph Dog
Jean, the Vitagraph Dog
Species Dog
Breed Collie
Sex Female
Died 1916
Occupation Dog actor
Employer Vitagraph Studios
Years active 1908–1913
Owner Laurence Trimble

Jean, also known as the Vitagraph Dog (190? – 1916), was a female Collie that performed leading 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]

Life and career[edit]

Jean in 1912

Around 1908, Maine resident and writer Laurence Trimble sold an animal story to a New York magazine. It paved the way for him to visit Vitagraph Studios with his dog, Jean, 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 a scene opposite Florence Turner. As a result, dog and master were asked to stay and both became members of the Vitagraph stock company.[3]:139

Scene from Jean the Match-Maker (1910), a film that survives

"Jean was equal in popularity to Vitagraph's human stars, Florence Turner and Maurice Costello," wrote film historian Anthony Slide.[3]:139 Jean was soon known as the Vitagraph Dog, starring in her own films, all directed by Trimble. One-reelers 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.

Trimble became a leading director at Vitagraph, directing most of the films made by Turner and John Bunny, as well as those made by Jean.[3]:139 Actress Helen Hayes recalled in a 1931 interview with The New York Times that as an eight-year-old she had roles in two of the 1910 films. "I had long curls and they let me play the juvenile lead in two pictures in support of Jean, the collie," Hayes said. "Jean was the most famous dog of the day and I was very thrilled."[4]

In December 1912, Jean gave birth to six puppies[3]:139 — two male and four female — and was the subject of the Vitagraph documentary short film, Jean and Her Family (1913).[5]

In March 1913, Trimble and Jean left Vitagraph and accompanied Florence Turner to England, where she formed her own company, Turner Films.[3]:36 In August 1915, Trimble and his canine star returned to the United States. In 1916, Jean died.[3]:139

Trimble tried to launch the career of a successor, Shep the Vitagraph Dog, without success.[3]:140 He then discovered and worked with another dog star, the famed Strongheart.[6][7] Trimble eventually retired from filmmaking and trained animals exclusively.[6]


Jean in Playmates (1912)

Nearly all of Jean's films are now lost with the exception of Jean the Match-Maker (1910),[8] and Jean Rescues (1911) in paper print at the Library of Congress.[citation needed]

Year Title Role Notes
1908 Unspecified Vitagraph Studios title [3]:139
1910 Jean and the Calico Doll Short film[9]
1910 Jean the Match-Maker Short film[9][8]
1910 Jean Goes Foraging Short film[9]
1910 Jean Goes Fishing Short film[9]
1910 Tin-Type Romance, AA Tin-Type Romance Short film[9]
1910 Jean and the Waif Short film[9]
1910 Where the Winds Blow Short film[9][8]
1910 Her Mother's Wedding Gown Short film[10]
1911 Jean Rescues Short film[10]
1911 When the Light Waned Short film[10]
1911 Stumbling Block, TheThe Stumbling Block Short film[7]
1911 Tested by the Flag Short film[11]
1911 Auld Lang Syne Geordie's dog Short film[10]
1912 Jean Intervenes Billy's dog Short film[7]
1912 Playmates Short film[12]
1912 Church Across the Way, TheThe Church Across the Way Short film[13]
1912 Bachelor Buttons Short film[14]
1912 Signal of Distress, TheThe Signal of Distress Short film[15]
1913 Jean's Evidence Short film[10]
1913 Jean and Her Family Herself Documentary short film[16]
1914 'Fraid Cat Jeanne, Jim's Dog Short film[11][17]
1915 Far from the Madding Crowd Gabriel's Dog Feature film[18]


  1. ^ Blair, the First Canine Movie Actor, Saluting Our Animal Actors, Saturday March 13, 2010
  2. ^ Jean the Vitagraph Dog: Silent Actor Dog; Famous Pets website, c.2011
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Slide, Anthony (1976). The Big V: A History of the Vitagraph Company. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810809673. 
  4. ^ "Miss Hayes and Films". The New York Times. March 15, 1931. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  5. ^ "Amusements at the Dixie". The Bryan Daily Eagle. April 21, 1913. 
  6. ^ a b "Laurence Trimble Dies". The New York Times. February 10, 1954. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  7. ^ a b c Lowe, Denise (2014). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895-1930. Routledge. J: Jean. ISBN 9781317718963. 
  8. ^ a b c "Jean the Match-Maker". Preserved Films. National Film Preservation Foundation. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Jean". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Jean". British Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  11. ^ a b "Jean". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  12. ^ "Photoplay Theatre". The Evening Herald. 1912-04-26. p. 8. 
  13. ^ "Amusements". The Nelson Mail 48. 1913-01-29. p. 7. 
  14. ^ "Marlow Theater". Suburbanite Economist. 1912-10-04. p. 3. 
  15. ^ "Entertainments". Feilding Star. 1913-07-21. p. 2. 
  16. ^ "Entertainments". The West Australian. 1913-08-06. p. 8. 
  17. ^ "The New Star Tonight". Princeton Daily Democrat (Princeton, Indiana). June 4, 1914. 'Fraid Cat.' Vitagraph Comedy Drama, featuring Bobby Connelly, Taft Johnson, Dorthy [sic] Kelly, Albert Roccardi and Jean, the Vitagraph dog. 
  18. ^ "Far from the Madding Crowd". British Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 

External links[edit]