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Birth Place: Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Long before such canine upstarts as Benji and Beethoven prowled the multiplexes, there was Lassie. Much more than a dog, she was a devoted companion, a courageous protector and a fearless fighter. Lassie was a lonely boy's best friend. Indeed many baby-boomers cannot hear "Greensleeves", the indelible theme music from later episodes of her long-running TV series, without feeling an exquisite sense of nostalgia. This beloved American icon captured the hearts of millions with her sentimental but rousing adventures in a popular series of films, TV shows, a radio program, personal appearances and numerous comebacks. Lassie first appeared in a 1938 short story by Eric Knight in the "Saturday Evening Post". A novel, "Lassie Come Home", followed in 1940.The screen Lassie was not only a superbly trained animal actor but a skillful female impersonator as well. Some may be scandalized that the original Lassie--hailed by one reviewer as "Greer Garson in Furs"--was actually a clever male collie named Pal. Under trainer Rudd Weatherwax, Pal beat out 300 curs to star in MGM's screen version of "Lassie Come Home" (1943). This job led to over five decades of security for Weatherwax and his family.Filmed in sumptuous...

Long before such canine upstarts as Benji and Beethoven prowled the multiplexes, there was Lassie. Much more than a dog, she was a devoted companion, a courageous protector and a fearless fighter. Lassie was a lonely boy's best friend. Indeed many baby-boomers cannot hear "Greensleeves", the indelible theme music from later episodes of her long-running TV series, without feeling an exquisite sense of nostalgia. This beloved American icon captured the hearts of millions with her sentimental but rousing adventures in a popular series of films, TV shows, a radio program, personal appearances and numerous comebacks. Lassie first appeared in a 1938 short story by Eric Knight in the "Saturday Evening Post". A novel, "Lassie Come Home", followed in 1940.

The screen Lassie was not only a superbly trained animal actor but a skillful female impersonator as well. Some may be scandalized that the original Lassie--hailed by one reviewer as "Greer Garson in Furs"--was actually a clever male collie named Pal. Under trainer Rudd Weatherwax, Pal beat out 300 curs to star in MGM's screen version of "Lassie Come Home" (1943). This job led to over five decades of security for Weatherwax and his family.

Filmed in sumptuous color and set in Europe, "Lassie Come Home" was a classic tearjerker about a poor family that sells their faithful collie to a wealthy dog fancier. The noble pooch, though, escapes and pads from Scotland to England to get home to her young master (played by Roddy McDowall). "Lassie Come Home" was a hit and led to six sequels through 1951, all starring Pal or one of his four male descendants. In the WWII-themed "Son of Lassie" (1945), Joe grows up to become Peter Lawford and goes off to war. Pal shines in a dual role as Lassie and her eager if somewhat bumbling son Laddie, to whom she passes the baton and the limelight.

Pal's character is mysteriously renamed Bill for "Courage of Lassie" (1946) as he recovers from his combat experiences with the help of a young Elizabeth Taylor. Using the stage name Lassie, Pal and his kin continued to appear in hit films, sometimes in period settings. Lassie also starred in a radio series (1947-50) in which Pal did the barking while a human imitator provided the panting, whining and growling. Lassie even supported John Wayne in the popular Western "Hondo" (1953).

Lassie segued to TV in 1954 for an impressive 17-year run on CBS before finishing up with three years in first-run syndication. "Lassie" (CBS, 1954-71) was a classic children's series that began as a boy and his dog show, evolved into more exotic adventures after Lassie teamed up with forest ranger Corey Stuart, and eventually de-emphasized humans to focus on the dog's adventures as a wanderer. Her first TV master was Tommy Rettig's Jeff Miller from 1954 to 1957 but America fell for Timmy the runaway orphan, memorably played by Jon Provost from 1957 to 1964, and his equally iconic adoptive mother June Lockhart. "The Journey", a four-episode storyline from this golden era, was re-edited and released theatrically as "Lassie's Greatest Adventure" (1963). The Jeff Miller episodes were later syndicated ("Jeff's Collie") as was the Timmy Martin saga ("Timmy and Lassie"). Lassie entered the Saturday morning sweepstakes via the animated show "Lassie's Rescue Rangers" (CBS, 1973-75) and returned to live action with "The New Lassie" (syndicated, 1989-91). Lassie has also done numerous guest spots and TV specials.

Years of TV exposure did not deter the canny collie from returning to the big screen for "The Magic of Lassie" (1978), a popular remake of "Lassie Come Home" starring James Stewart and a sixth generation descendant of Pal. The boldly bodacious bitch tried yet another comeback with "Lassie" (1994) but jaded audiences took little notice of this Lorne Michaels-produced feature despite a sterling supporting cast that included Helen Slater, Frederic Forrest and Richard Farnsworth. The eighth generation Lassie and her boy Thomas Guiry of 1993's "The Sandlot" took center stage. Her trainer was now Rudd Weatherwax's son Robert.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Lassie (2006)
2.
 Lassie (1994)
3.
 Lassie's Great Adventure (1963) A dog
4.
 The Painted Hills (1951) "Shep"
5.
 The Sun Comes Up (1949)
6.
7.
 Hills of Home (1948)
8.
 Courage of Lassie (1946) Bill [also known as Duke]
9.
 Son of Lassie (1945) Laddie
10.
 Lassie Come Home (1943) Lassie
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1943:
Feature debut, "Lassie Come Home"
1945:
Portrayed Lassie and her son Laddie in the sequel, "Son of Lassie"
1946:
Co-starred as Bill with Elizabeth Taylor in "Courage of Lassie"
:
Starred in the radio series "Lassie" in which Pal did the barking
1953:
Played a supporting role in the popular John Wayne Western, "Hondo"
:
Starred in the classic children's adventure series, "Lassie", on CBS
1963:
Four TV episodes were edited together and released theatrically as "Lassie's Greatest Adventure"
:
Starred in the first run syndicated version of "Lassie"
:
Featured in the animated CBS children's series, "Lassie's Rescue Rangers"
1978:
A sixth generation Lassie made a feature comeback with James Stewart in "The Magic of Lassie", a remake of "Lassie Come Home"
1978:
Starred in a two-part ABC special cum pilot entitled "Lassie: The New Beginning"
:
Starred in the syndicated series, "The New Lassie"
1994:
Profiled in the PBS documentary, "The Story of Lassie"
1994:
Spotlighted in the ABC tribute, "Lassie Unleashed: 280 Dog Years in TV"
1994:
An eighth generation Lassie returned to films in the Lorne Michaels-produced feature, "Lassie"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

From a review of "Lassie Come Home" in "Variety", August 18, 1943: "Lassie, a beautiful collie, is given a great deal of camera attention and is docile, if not extraordinarily trained. The dog is the focal point for a great deal of pathos throughout the film's 90 minutes."

From the entry on "Lassie" in "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows: 1946-Present" by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (NY: Ballantine Books, 1992): "The one constant in this favorite long-running children's adventure series was Lassie, a brave, loyal, and remarkably intelligent collie. Lassie was always alert, ready to help her masters and protect them from evil and adversity. In fact, her heroics were often incredible--leading lost persons to safety, warning of all sorts of impending disasters, tending the sick and manipulating various human devices with ease. Fortunately Lassie was able to switch her allegiances periodically, for she was required to go through several sets of owners during her long career."

From "The Film Encyclopedia" by Ephraim Katz (NY: Putnam, 1994): "While in New York for personal appearances on the stage of Radio City Music Hall, the dog stayed in a $380-a-day suite at the Plaza Hotel."

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