Lassie was the canine
star of many movies, radio shows, and even a television series. Lassie, a collie
, was the first major animal star. The character was played by many different dogs. As the years went on, the current Lassie would die or become too old, and would be replaced by one of its children. The Lassie family is still going strong and is in its eighth generation. Generations one through six were bred and trained by Rudd Weatherwax
, and now Rudd's son Bob is in charge.
The first appearance of Lassie was in a 1938 short story called "Lassie Come Home", written by Eric Knight and published in the Saturday Evening Post. Five years later, "Lassie Come Home" made its debut on the silver screen. The movie was a giant success, and quickly spawned sequels. "Son of Lassie" came out in 1945 and "The Courage of Lassie" followed in 1946.
The lovable collie was sweeping the nation. In 1946, a Lassie radio show began, and it would run until 1949. In 1954, the most memorable part of Lassie's career began: the Lassie television series. Many people remember little Timmy Martin getting in trouble and Lassie getting help for him. Timmy was introduced to the show in its fourth season, about halfway through the show's lifetime. Before that, the main human characters on the show were "Gramps" and Ellen, who owned a farm, and a young boy named Jeff. Shortly after Timmy and his family were introduced, Gramps died and Ellen sold the farm. Lassie was given to Timmy.
The Lassie television show was pretty cheesy, but it was very good for a 1950's-60's show. Timmy or Jeff would always get into trouble somehow involving Lassie, receive help, and learn a lesson. Part of the reason the show was so successful was that its star was an extremely well-trained animal. Lassie was quite possibly the best actor on the show. The show's run ended in 1962, after eight full seasons.
The Lassie movies took Lassie on a number of adventures. In "Son of Lassie", Lassie follows a pilot of the Royal Air Force after he gets shot down. Lassie and Timmy go for a high-flying adventure in a hot air balloon in 1963's "Lassie's Great Adventure". In 1978, "The Magic of Lassie" was released. Lassie is stolen by a greedy businessman and runs away to her real owners. All in all, Lassie has appeared in 11 movies.
In 1997, a new Lassie television show began. The show appeared on some less-than-popular cable networks, and it did not garner impressive ratings. Lassie's popularity has definitely decreased over the years. Lassie truly set the stage for animal stars on television and in movies.