The Life and the Legend
Rin Tin Tin
The Life and the Legend
German shepherd Rin Tin Tin’s journey is the story of the twentieth century. From the discovery of Rin Tin Tin on a WWI battlefield in 1918, to the movies, radio programs, and the 1950s television show that would cement his legacy around the world, Rin Tin Tin traces the extraordinary history of the dog and his descendants over more than ninety years. Rin Tin Tin was a star (he received 10,000 fan letters a week); a worldwide sensation; a social figure (as the U.S. Army’s WWII mascot, he inspired thousands of Americans to donate their dogs for use in the war); and a baby-boom touchstone. He was also a real dog, and the book tells the epic love story between Rin Tin Tin and the remarkable people who devoted their lives to him and his legacy.
Rin Tin Tin is also Orlean’s meditation on the nature of heroism, loyalty, and memory, and how Rin Tin Tin has lasted for so many generations. “Rin Tin Tin could leap twelve feet,” she writes, “and he could leap through time.”
Like no one else, Orlean crafts brilliantly engaging, witty, and passionate narratives about her real-life characters. As The Washington Post Book World has said, her “snapshot-vivid, pitch-perfect prose…is fast becoming one of our national treasures.” A tour de force of history, emotion, and masterful storytelling, here is the ultimate tale for anyone who loves great dogs or great journalism.
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Reading Group Guide
In Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend, Susan Orlean traces the journey of Rin Tin Tin from a puppy on a French battlefield to an international brand, a set of ideals, and a legacy that has passed down from generation to generation. The narrative delves into the history of dogs in the military, obedience training and animal domestication, shifting social mores, and film and television history, all while keeping a steady hold on the personal stories of Rinty and the people who loved and trained him.
Lee Duncan, a young American soldier, first stumbled across the newborn Rin Tin Tin in a bombed out animal shelter in the fields of France. Lee took Rinty back to America, and, through a twisting path of luck and devotion, Rin Tin Tin became a Hollywood icon. The idea of Rin Tin Tin grew from the values embodied by a single dog in silent films into something much bigger than Lee had perhaps imagined—into an idea, an emotion, a character residing in national and international consciousness.
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