Pal Famous Dogs

The dog considered to have had the most spectacular canine career in the history of film and television,  Pal  was the Rough Collie who defined the role of Lassie in MGM’s eponymous films.

Interestingly enough, Lassie was not in fact a lassie but a laddie, a 3-year-old dog originally hired as a stunt double for the proposed star of MGM’s 1943 feature film, Lassie Come Home. But in one particular scene,  Pal  performed so magnificently, the original star was released and, dare I say it, a new star was born!

In fact  Pal  performed so well, MGM decided to upgrade the proposed low budget, black and white children’s film to a fully promoted, ‘A’ film shot in Technicolor.

If you’re thinking, ‘Only in America’ at this point, you’d probably be right. But there’s more…

After that,  Pal  never looked back. He went on to star in six more MGM films over the next eight years. Those films, made between 1943 and 1951, went on to gross in excess of 20 million US dollars, an awful lot of money at the time!

Retiring from the movie business,  Pal  then went on to star in his own show, performing at department stores, dog shows, fairs and rodeos throughout the USA before being signed to star in his own television series in 1954.

Having made two pilots for the Lassie television series,  Pal  decided to put his paws up and hand over the role he had created to the next generation of female canine stars. In keeping with tradition, the role was given to his three year old son, Lassie Junior, who in turn was replaced by two of his own sons, Pal’s grandsons, Spook and Baby, when Junior himself became too old for the role. These were subsequently followed by Mire and Hey Hey, two more of Pal’s progeny.

All of which is the more remarkable when you consider that  Pal  was sold by his breeders as a ‘pet quality’ dog (not good enough for showing), because his eyes were too large, his head was too flat, and he had a white blaze running down his forehead.

Not only that, he only came to the attention and ultimately the ownership of legendary animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax – charged with supplying a dog for the original Lassie film – because Pal’s habit of chasing motorcycles had led his previous owner to give up on the dog.

 Pal , the greatest canine TV and movie star the world has ever known, died peacefully at home in 1958 aged 18 – about 85 in dog years.

marco-smileRemarkable. Truly remarkable!

Photo Credit:
Photo of Pal, the original “Lassie” in 1942. The photo appears to have been taken during the filming of Lassie Come Home (1943), as the movie was shot in Washington State and California. This work is in the public domain.
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