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TV GUIDE ad for "Rin Tin Tin".“Rin Tin Tin”

The original Rin Tin Tin was a male German shepherd rescued from a WWI French battlefield by American Air Corpsman Lee Duncan who trained Rinty and obtained silent film work for the dog. After Rin Tin Tin died in ‘32 the name was passed on to several related German Shepherds including Rin Tin Tin Jr. who appeared in three Mascot serials. However, the original Rin Tin Tin stars in Mascot’s “Lightning Warrior” (‘31). Duncan groomed Rin Tin Tin IV for TV’s “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” but when the dog performed poorly he was replaced in the series by trainer Frank Barnes’ dogs, primarily Flame Jr., called JR. Barnes’ dogs Blaze saw screen time and Duncan’s dog Hey You was used as a stunt dog.

Rip Masters (Brown), Rin Tin Tin, Rusty (Aaker).Beginning on ABC Friday nights from 7:30-8 ET, “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” ran for 165 half hour episodes from October 15, 1954, to May 8, 1959. The series went into Saturday afternoon reruns on ABC from September ‘59 to September ‘61. CBS picked it up for another two years in September ‘62 and broadcast it Saturday mornings until September ‘64.

The show starred child actor Lee Aaker as Rusty, a boy orphaned after an Indian raid who was raised by the Cavalry soldiers at Ft. Apache and given an honorary rank as Corporal. Lee was born September 25, 1943, in L.A. and started appearing in films at eight in ‘51.

Desdemona, TX, born (3/22/20) James Brown was Lt. Rip Masters; character player Joe Sawyer (1906-1982) was Sgt. Biff O’Hara who was often at (friendly) odds with Corporal Boone, played by Rand Brooks (1918-2003). Major Swanson (William Forrest) was in charge of Ft. Apache. Other recurring characters included Tommy Farrell as Corporal Carson, Hal Hopper as Corporal Clarke, Syd Saylor as storekeeper Pritikin, Harry Strang as the Salt River Sheriff and Andy Clyde as Homer Tubbs. The 165 episodes were populated by a Who’s Who of B-Western talent as well as up and coming names at the time like Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, George Hamilton, Jerome Courtland, L. Q. Jones, Robert Fuller and Warren Oates.

Herbert B. Leonard produced the majority of the episodes assisted by Douglas Heyes and Jerry Thomas who also scripted 44 and 36 episodes respectively. Other writing credits came from well known scripters such as Tony Barrett, Buckley Angell and Samuel Roeca as well as lesser known names. Directing credits were spread among 10 well respected Western film names such as Robert G. Walker (54 episodes), Earl Bellamy, Lew Landers, William Beaudine, Douglas Heyes and others.

The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.“Rin Tin Tin” was primarily filmed at Corriganville using the fort set there. The program took occasional excursions to Big Bear, Vasquez Rocks and Bronson Canyon. James Brown said one of the most popular episodes, “White Buffalo”, was filmed at the Santa Ana, CA, Buffalo Ranch, “The only show we shot in four days, our average was two and a half days for an episode,” Brown stated. According to Brown the crew painted the head buffalo with white paint mixed with milk.

As stated, JR was not the only dog that played Rin Tin Tin. “In the action scenes,” Lee Aaker told us, “where you see the dog running then leaping over the camera—usually when he attacked somebody—and then the camera turns around and you see the bad guy getting hit by the dog; it was just a stuffed German Shepherd. It weighed about 20 or 30 pounds. They would throw it at the actor and he’d
Aaker, Brown, Sawyer.
get hit and do a fall, then they’d go back to the long shot and use the fighting dog. I named him. They had no name for him so I said, ‘Let’s call him Hey You.’ JR did the closeups and the acting, and the real Rin Tin Tin, a fourth generation from the first one, was mainly in the scenes with the horses because JR wanted to play with them and they were afraid of him getting stepped on or kicked. A lot of times they wanted him to lick me and he wouldn’t. He wasn’t into licking, so they smeared hamburger meat all over my face and then he would do it. Traveling to personal appearances at Madison Square Garden, Boston Gardens and other rodeos
and fairs, besides the main
Joe Sawyer on the set of "Rin Tin Tin" with his son Riley Sauers who was used as a stand-in for Aaker while Riley wa son vacation. cast, were Wally West, Doyle Brooks and Joe Hooker, who were our stunt men. They did falls off the horses and fought the dog.” On the show Lee recalls, “Joe Sawyer and all the guys treated me like a son and took care of me. You hear all the horror stories about child actors, what they were doing and how they were getting taken. Well, I have no complaints. Jim Brown, what a great man to work with. I remember him on tour, the patience and tolerance. I didn’t have the patience to sit and talk. I hated it. I wanted to be a kid. I wanted to go to work and then leave it, but Jim signed autographs and treated all these people with love and respect. Rand Brooks and Jim Brown were kind of like fathers to me.”

James Brown was called in to interview for the role of Lt. Rip Masters. He read with Lee who had already been cast as Rusty to see how the chemistry would work between them. Brown read the scene and was told “You’re Lt. Rip Masters” even before they had finished. Tom and Jim Goldrup asked Jim what Rin Tin Tin was like working with, Jim answered, “A true professional. I loved that dog. He was like a human being. Sweetest animal; he wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was just brilliant. It was really scary, the things that he would do.” As for Brown’s horse on the series, it was “Shadow, part quarter horse and he could fly.” Jim struggled with the horse for the first 16 shows, “We did a lot of running inserts for stock shots: the dog leading me by myself; me with the boy; with four Cavalry; eight Cavalry; then 20 Cavalry in back of us. Every time I’d pull my gun out, after the first time, and I had to shoot the gun off, the horse went crazy. Every time he heard me pull it out of the scabbard he’d raise hell. I fought it for 16 pictures. One day Bert Leonard happened to be out at the ranch and we were doing a long running shot, my horse just went nuts. We’re supposed to be going fast, the camera car’s going fast and I’m trying to keep from running over the dog and hold my horse back. He wouldn’t let anybody in front of him; that’s all there was to it. And he ran away with me. I sawed his mouth and I still couldn’t stop him. Finally he just pooped out. Bert Leonard said, ‘That does it. Get a different horse!’ He had seen the trouble I was having when watching the dailies. I had dialogue to speak; I couldn’t have a horse prancing around. The next horse they got me was just fantastic. They’re so different. Doing a series was tough. The first year we were working six days a week; long, long hours. We’d do two shows a week, averaging two and a half days a show. If one of them went three days, the next one would have to be done in two days.”

Aaker, Rinty, Brown and Rand Brooks at a personal appearance.Being the adult lead on the show meant there was much pressure so Jim carried a heavy load. Sometimes after lunch they would start the next show and Brown told us, “You don’t have time to think because you only have a half hour lunch. Even though it was just a half hour show, sometimes you wouldn’t get the script until the night before. Generally I looked at four at a time and I learn fast, thank God, or otherwise you couldn’t do it. Like one day we added about 20 Cavalrymen near the fort, and they said, ‘Look, we got the same set and the same 20 guys for two shows down the road. Do you think you could do this scene?’ I hadn’t even seen the script for that. 10 minutes later I’m doing it; four or five pages. It scared me, but did I learn.”

To add to the confusion they would film the summer shows in the winter and the winter shows were filmed during the summer. Jim said, “We were doing winter shows and I had on a winter uniform which was wool; a top coat, a heavy thing; and on top of that a gold lined cape. This was what the officers wore. It’s about 110 degrees out there at the ranch and the sweat would come down and all the makeup would run.”

Lee Aaker recalls, “Rand Brooks was such a nice guy, and he, more than anyone else, would call me aside if I stepped out of line and calmly tell me how to handle it a little differently.”

Rand Brooks once told WC, “My role of Corporal Boone wasn’t to be a permanent part. It was just an added character. Then they signed me to a regular contract. I got along well with the dog—which they didn’t all know how to handle. (Laughs) Lee Duncan had the original Rin Tin Tin. The first day on the series he couldn’t cut it with the dog he had. The dog just wouldn’t work—he was lazy and had no spirit. But they had Frank Barnes as protection with a double dog…the son of Flame, Golden Boy Junior. Barnes was the most magnificent German Shepard trainer…all the dog trainers acknowledged, nobody could train like Frank. Then Lee Duncan came up with a little smaller dog called Hey You that did the fights, and he was a mean sucker (Laughs). He did some of the running with the horses too. Lee Aaker was a wonderful kid, a good little athlete. He got along with the dogs fine. Jim Brown got along with everybody. He just didn’t know an enemy. The camaraderie between the group was excellent. It was one of the nicest relationships—we all loved the boy, we usually had good directors, like Earl Bellamy. ‘Rin Tin Tin’ was ABC’s #1 show. We made ‘em for $25,000 per segment, which was soon raised up to $30-$35,000. Joe Sawyer (Laughs) and the dog probably made more than anyone, ‘cause Joe had years and years of experience—and he was independently well to-do, which helps when you’re negotiating a contract. He built some 200-300 homes out in Santa Paula—and he carried the paper on ‘em. He was a great raconteur. As to promotional tours, I did the first ones—Madison Square Garden then Boston Gardens. I said the wrong thing about some low per diem pay to producer Bert Leonard, so they fired me and hired Tommy Farrell, who was Bert’s cousin incidentally, as Corp. Carson. Then ABC and the sponsor, Nabisco, said, ‘No, we want Rand Brooks.’ Doug Heyes did a lot of writing on the series. He had me getting married on the show (“Boone’s Wedding Day”)…I even played my own grandfather in a couple of ‘em (“Boone’s Grandpappy”). I think that’s what saved my work on the series. Nabisco loved that show and wanted another one. (Laughs) They said they wanted Rand Brooks back to do another Grandpappy Boone.” (“Grandpappy’s Love Affair”).

Without a doubt, “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” is one of the most fondly remembered shows of the ‘50s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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