FILM / Kennel club: best of breed

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Good dogs: Cinema's first recorded dog hero was Rover in Rescued by Rover (undated). Then came Rin Tin Tin (1916-32), the ex-German Army dog who was one of the biggest stars of his time. He had 20 stand-ins. Lassie came home in 1942, but was in fact a laddie called Pal. (There was a later sex change.) Asta, a wire-haired fox- terrier, helped solve crimes for Topper (1937) and The Thin Man (1943). As Pauline Kael noted, 'He seemed to love each master equally.' See also Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), and the aptly named Joe Camp's Benji movies.

Bad dogs: The Hounds of Zaroff (1932) hunted humans; The Hound of the Baskervilles did likewise; pack attacks enlivened Dogs (1976) and Moonraker (1979). Gregory Peck was savaged in The Omen (1976) and The Boys from Brazil (1978). Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1979) drank blood.

Sentimental hounds: Old Yeller (1957) died while children wept; Greyfriars Bobby (1961) guarded his owner's grave; My Life as a Dog (1985) directed by Lasse (geddit?) Hallstrom.

Neurotic dogs: Matisse refused to eat in Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986); White Dog (1982) attacked black people. He was de-programmed.