Welcome to One Page, a newsletter that transports you into the world of an outstanding book for a few minutes. A couple of times a week, we’ll send you a great passage from a book we love. (To subscribe, unsubscribe, or donate, see below.) Red Room Editors Gina and Huntington selected a page from Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend (2011), by Susan Orlean, to share with you today:
Rin Tin Tin died on an August day in 1932.
A United Press bulletin broke into radio programs that afternoon with an announcement: “Rin Tin Tin, greatest of animal motion-picture actors, pursued a ghostly villain in a canine happy-hunting ground today.” Lee said that he had heard Rinty bark in a peculiar way, so he went to see what the matter was. He found Rin Tin Tin lying on the ground, and within a moment he was gone. The story was soon floated on the great raft of legend. It was reported that Rin Tin Tin had died at night; that he had died on the set of “Pride of the Legion” during a rehearsal; that he had died while leaping into the arms of Jean Harlow, who lived near Lee on Club View Drive; or that he had collapsed on Lee’s front lawn, and that Harlow had seen him, and had raced over to comfort him, and that “she cradled the great furry head in her lap, and there he died.”
The news was met with great communal grief. The day after his death, an hour-long tribute to Rinty was broadcast on radio networks across the country. “We had expected to discuss [President] Hoover’s broadcast today,” one radio announcer explained. “But something else happened…it was the Rin-tin-tin program. Last night a whole radio network and thousands of radio fans paid homage to a great dog; a gentleman, a scholar, a hero, a cinema star – in fact, a dog which was virtually everything we could wish to be.”
Theaters posted death notices in their windows, as if they had lost a member of the family. Every newspaper ran an obituary and in many cases, a long feature detailing the dog’s career, as if his career had shaped a time period, and now marked its end. The Chicago Tribune summed up its story by saying that with Rin Tin Tin’s death “the greatest of all dog actors became a memory and a tradition.”
Fox Movietone’s newsreel featured a long piece about the dog’s death, titled “Rin Tin Tin Plays His Final Role,” which was the main newsreel feature, following a short clip of Herbert Hoover droning on woodenly about his reelection campaign. The footage shown was from the German Catholic Orphan Asylum in Buffalo, New York – one of Rinty’s last public appearances. The orphans are smudge-faced, pale, and bundled in bland and tattered hand-me-downs, and they shriek in excitement as Lee chooses a volunteer from among them. Lee then points to the little boy, the volunteer, and tells Rinty to “get the bad guy.” Rinty pretends to attack the boy, whose face flashes back and forth from terror to exhilaration to bashfulness. After a moment, Lee says to Rinty, “Rinty, kiss and make up.” The children cheer. Rinty stands up on his hind legs and licks the boy’s face, and the kids scream and scream in delight. Lee, watching the dog, is beaming, radiant.
Then Lee calls the dog to come to him. Rinty pauses for a split second and then springs into his arms. Dark-coated, bright-eyed, he is as slim and strong looking as he ever was, just as light on his feet and explosive in his leaps, and in Lee’s embrace, he looks surprisingly small, not at all like a grown dog. Holding him, Lee has a look of joy so fresh and uncomplicated that, for an instant, he is transformed again into a hopeful and lonely boy. The camera lingers for a moment, and then the Fox Movietone announcer says, “Rin Tin Tin: only a dog. But millions who he delighted will mourn his passing.”
A $1 donation allows you to buy any of Susan Orlean's books today at 40% off. For a donation of $5, $25, or $100, you’ll get 40% off all books purchased in the next week. For $250, we’ll send you a copy of today's featured book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, and a cookbook written by the author's (obviously remarkable) dog, Throw Me a Bone: 50 Healthy, Canine Taste-Tested Recipes for Snacks, Meals and Treats, plus a Red Room Author a little less busy than Ms. Orlean will take you to lunch. Onerous restrictions apply.
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-The Red Room Team