For centuries in theater, paws have drawn applause

April 13, 2006|By MARY CAROLE MCCAULEY | MARY CAROLE MCCAULEY,SUN REPORTER

Here is a partial list of famous Fidos of stage and screen, culled from Buff Huntley, dramaturge and administrator of the New Old Theatre, and from various Web sites.

Dragon: A legend about a wolfhound by this name was the inspiration for the 1790 play The Dog of Montargis. According to the story, Dragon led searchers to the grave of his beloved master and indicated the murderer by the unusual hostility that he showed to a prominent aristocrat. After the suspect (armed only with a cudgel) was defeated in man-to-canine combat, he confessed and was hanged. A dramatic statue of this fight was later erected in this French town.

More than 200 years later, the story was made into a 2004 book by entertainer Julie Andrews called Dragon: Hound of Honor.

Carlo: The former butcher's dog became a star after his performance in 1806 in The Caravan. According to a supposed "autobiography" for children published in 1809, Carlo was a mixed-breed dog, though he had plenty of Newfoundland blood. The story, written in the tear-jerking, pious mode of the time, tells of Carlo's many adventures, including the drowning of his 15 siblings, his friendship with a starving little boy named Edward who gave the puppy his last morsel of food, and his rescue of a little girl who fell into a swift stream.

The Wonderful Nelson: This dog, who became a star in the 1840s in Great Britain, was famous for being able to remove a canary from its cage and carry it across the stage to an actor without injuring the fragile warbler. In another renowned stunt, Nelson would climb a ladder 40 feet above the stage, fire a cannon and descend a second ladder to safety.

Rin-Tin-Tin: The world's most famous German shepherd was found as a newborn puppy after a U.S. corporal insisted that his battalion search a bombed-out kennel in France during World War I. The dog made his first motion picture in 1922, and in the next decade made 26 pictures for Warner Bros. At the peak of his fame, he received 10,000 fan letters a week and was credited with saving the studio from financial ruin.

Lassie: An abandoned well. Oh, no! Where's Timmy? Run, run, run. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Bark, bark, bark. "What's wrong, girl?"

Need we say more?

Mary Carole McCauley

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