Rin Tin Tin, the German Shepherd whose canine charisma captivated 1920s movie audiences and helped forge our intense bond with dogs, is the headliner on Tuesday, Nov. 8, at Stamford's Avon Theatre, when his life and film career are explored and some (possible) descendants stop by. On hand to discuss him will be writer Susan Orlean, who'll talk about his remarkable story detailed in her new book, "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend."
Rescued as a puppy from a World War I battlefield, "Rinty" not only starred in many Hollywood movies, he also became a cultural symbol of loyalty and courage. (Later, a Rin Tin Tin television series aired.) The Avon's evening devoted to Rin Tin Tin also includes a screening of his classic 1925 film, "Clash of the Wolves" and special appearances by four footers from three rescue groups, The Wolf Conservation Center of South Salem, N.Y., Norwalk's PAWS and Adopt-A-Dog based in Greenwich and Armonk.
For Orlean, a New Yorker staff writer since 1992, the unlikely spark that ignited her interest in Rin Tin Tin's remarkable story, was a Rin Tin Tin figurine that sat on her grandfather's desk. "I knew nothing about Rin Tin Tin other than that he was the perfect dog, and that he was a character on television. When by chance I learned that Rin Tin Tin was a real dog, not just a television character—a real dog with a real life that was extraordinary—I was drawn into the story and eventually to the idea of writing this book."
As Orlean discovered, Rinty's dramatic life included his 1918 rescue from a German encampment by an American soldier, Lee Duncan, who became his trainer, followed by years climbing the Hollywood fame pinnacle, during which he came close to being the first non-human Oscar winner.
Orlean's book about Rin Tin Tin, and the depth of the story she tells, seems also to have caught reviewers by surprise. Publisher's Weekly called her book, "Stirring ... A tale of passion and dedication overcoming adversity ... Even readers coming to Rin Tin Tin for the first time will find it difficult to refrain from joining Duncan in his hope that Rin Tin Tin's legacy will 'go on forever.'" And Kirkus Reviews described it as an "astonishing story ... A terrific dog's tale that will make readers sit up and beg for more." The Avon's Rin Tin Tin evening begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $28 and $32 and include a signed copy of Susan Orlean's book. For more information, visit the Avon's website.