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Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  4,358 ratings  ·  928 reviews
Allegedly found in the ruins of a bombed-out dog kennel in France during World War I, then brought to Los Angeles by Lee Duncan, the soldier who found and trained him, by 1927 Rin Tin Tin had become Hollywood's number one box-office star. Susan Orlean's book--about the dog and the legend--is a poignant exploration of the enduring bond between humans and animals. It is also ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Simon Schuster
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Average rating 3.51  · 
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Will Byrnes
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
Good book, good book, good. Snap on your flea collars, curl up in your cozy bed, wrap that bushy tail around yourself and park that muzzle on your paws. Susan Orlean has a remarkable tale to tell about an amazing pooch.

Susan Orlean - image from The Mercantile Library

For many of you the name Rin Tin Tin rings no bells, but for folks of a certain age it summons memories from the way-back. Rin Tin Tin (no relation to the pointy-haired comic book and 2011 film character) was a hero. Rinny was a ve
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you only ever read one dog biography in your life, make it this one. There you go, publishers: there's your free blurb.

There wasn't really a good reason for me to pick this book up - I was vaguely aware of Rin Tin Tin but didn't know much about him besides the fact that he was a movie dog during the 1940's (this is only partially true, it turns out, but we'll get to that). I had two reasons for wanting to read this book. First, it's by Susan Orlean, who could probably write an investigative
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book a lot and so it gets four stars. Susan Orlean writes well. She has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1992. She wouldn’t have this job if she didn’t write well! The composition is well laid out, she expresses herself clearly and her background research is for the most part thorough. She presents interesting facts on the wide range of topics the book covers and draws valuable conclusions at the book’s end. She explains what her study of those involved in the making of t ...more
``Laurie Henderson
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animal-books
I do love animal stories and this was a good, well researched book about the famous movie and TV star Rin Tin Tin.

Talk about a rags to riches story! RTT started out life in a bombed out German Army kennel in France and his prospects weren't looking good at all until a young American soldier, Lee Duncan, discovered the mother and her pups.

Lee strongly bonded with RTT as a pup and pulled all sorts of strings to bring RTT back home to American with him. Once they arrived home to California Duncan
Oct 17, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: animals, history
No! Say it isn't so!! The unthinkable has happened, Goodreads friends -- I purchased a book with a dog on the cover, but I DIDN'T LIKE IT! Unbelievable!

To be fair, let me explain to you why I bought this book and what I expected. Like many children growing up in the fifties, I loved the television show The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. (In fact, I clearly remember sitting at the dinner table in a blue funk the night I learned the show was being canceled while my parents tried valiantly to convince
Oct 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
An engrossing immersion into one man’s devotion to Rin Tin Tin, Lee Duncan, and his obsession shared with a Hollywood producer, Bert Leonard, in making a mythic story out of him. To me, Orlean comes off as a persistent sleuth and gifted writer in bringing the story alive and clarifying why this dog and his successors captivated the hearts of generations of adults and children around the world. Here is an example of her style:

“Rin Tin Tin has always been more than a dog. He was an idea and an ide
Debbie Zapata
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020printbooks
Last year I found myself reading a number of biographies, and I have more in my bookcase for this year. Most of them are about people in the entertainment industry such as Tiny Tim and Jimi Hendrix. This book was about someone in the entertainment industry as well, but Rin Tin Tin was not a singer or a drummer. He was a German Shepherd dog. (More than one over the years, actually.)

Susan Orlean has written an entertaining, informative book which includes the original story of how Rin Tin Tin was
Jun 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean moves forward from Lee Duncan's discovery of a dog on a German battlefield during World War I and his belief in this dog's "immortality." The story moves backwards through Duncan's abandoned childhood and forwards through the dog-who becomes the famous Rin Tin Tin-and Duncan's relationship and journey through the film world. Using the prism of this relationship, Orlean, with her usual strong writing, and well-paced narrative also brings us int ...more
Saturday's Child
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
After reading the positive review and seeing the four star rating that my Goodreads friend Laurie gave this book I just had to find a copy to read. Being about a dog and also Hollywood ticked the boxes for me, but there is so much more about Rin Tin Tin’s story that I learnt from reading this book.
Before this book, my one vague memory of Rin Tin Tin was that short scene in 101 Dalmatians where the puppies are watching it on TV. Yet, I somehow knew that Rin Tin Tin was a dog, and even had a blurry picture of a German Shepard in my mind, and knew that he was a famous dog actor back in the day. So even me, who was born decades after Rin Tin Tin was last on the air, knew of him.

I found Orlean's dedication to her research and her ability to bring back to life the history of Rin Tin Tin and th
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book is a fascinating account of the real life Rin Tin Tin and his owner Lee Duncan, as well as the early days of the entertainment industry from silent film and vaudeville reaching all the way to television. We also learn of the immense contributions of animals to the war effort of WWI and WWII, with the United States finally bringing in the use of trained dogs in WWII. Susan Orlean has done an amazing job of research for this book and has tied it all together in a compelling narrative. Ce ...more
Gabe "The Dungeon Master" Graffam
Hello, and welcome back to Gaaaaabbbbbeeeee''ss's's''s booooooooooook review:

I enjoyed this quite good. Although i am not the fan of biographys. This one caught my attention. I don't like people story's. But, I can say that I liked this dogs hollywood nights. A+ from me and I hope to learn more about him as I go on through life, a sad, sad, sad man. Thanks!

If you catch the song title in this review type in the comments
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Dorothy by: First Reads Giveaway
Shelves: grgw, own
A FirstReads Giveaway.
Dear Susan, thank you so much for the time, effort and love you put into this history of Rin Tin Tin. I must admit this is the first of your books I have read but have now made reading more of your work a priority.
The Rin Tin Tin legend is a favorite of mine having loved him since my childhood. I am the happy owner/companion of a beautiful White German Shepherd Dog who is very much part of the family.
As a dog lover and childhood fan of Rin Tin Tin, I was so happy to he
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you are of a "certain age" you will probably remember, as did I, the television series "The Adventures fo Rin Tin Tin" - a time when (young people of today wouldn't believe) there were ONLY 3 television networks! A time when no man had walked on the moon, a time when instant communication was something only seen on the television screen in futuristic fantasy space programs!

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean is a well thought out, well researched look into the real story of
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was one of the heathen. As a Generation Xer, I had never seen a Rin Tin Tin movie or even knew a television series existed. Yes, the name was familiar, but as a cinematic legend up there with Chaplin, Chaney, and Fairbanks. After reading this wonderful journey of a dog, his owner, and all of the people connected to his name, I immediately jumped to YouTube for clips of the original Rinty silent movies. Now, I'm a member of the family.

Susan Orlean captures the essence of 'yearning' in this acco
Jun 19, 2011 rated it did not like it
I got a late start in this book—an advance readers edition that I won through Goodreads’ First Reads Giveway—because I was away from home for a couple of weeks visiting Miami, Florida. Ah, yes, The Magic City is still beautiful and still fascinates, but this visit had, as all of the recent ones have had, its very sad side to it: I was there to help my elderly and very ill parents. So, when my husband called me in Miami to say I’d received a package from Simon & Schuster, and that it “looks like ...more
This is less the story of Rin Tin Tin (and his offspring) than of the man that owned him…and after that, of the men and women that sought to preserve the memory of him. I am a sucker for dog books, but since dogs don’t talk, one must be satisfied with stories of their owners. Just as Marley and Me was not so much the story of the dog than of John Grogan and his family, so Rin Tin Tin must be imagined through this book and the massive archive of film footage of him and his chosen successors.

Mark Mikula
Without even trying, this book propelled itself onto my all-time favorite shelf. Orlean deftly and respectfully considers the dogs and people who are a part of the Rin Tin Tin story and presents a wonderful melange of history, both straightforward and speculative, as she chronicles the riveting story of the dog and his guardians.

I've never taken to German shepherds and knew very little about Rin Tin Tin going into the book, but I am a dog and a movie lover with a particular interest in twentieth
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
There wasn't much about the actual dogs.... I enjoyed the parts that were about Lee and old Rin. Everyone else involved with the Rin Tin Tin franchise in any way (be it only breeding/training the dogs or only making the movies/TV programmes) seems to have been kind of mean and lawsuit-happy. After reading this book, I think the Rin Tin Tin franchise is going to die out because of the people who are trying so hard to keep it going. It was very depressing.

Also, there was too much jumping around, t
Samantha Glasser
Rin Tin Tin is a familiar name to most people, even if only in the vague recesses of the memory. How many have actually watched one of his films or saw the TV show? As time goes on, the public attachment gets weaker, but this book serves to document and preserve a screen presence that was once ranked among the top stars of the day.

Susan Orlean reads her own audiobook, which is a nice touch. She has a somewhat nasal voice but once you get used to it, it works. She is a fellow Ohioan who inserts
Oct 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
"What lasts? What lingers? What is snagged by the brambles of time, and what slips through and disappears?..Maybe all we do in life is just a race against this idea of disappearing."

Susan Orlean's book about her childhood hero is a surprisingly a deep consideration of the need to hold onto something bigger than ourselves and the desire to immortalize our heroes. Her story is about the real Rin Tin Tin, the man whose life Rinty 'gave meaning to', and the people who worked to share Rinty's story a
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Why a book about Rin Tin Tin? For dog-lovers like me, the answer is obvious – the pure, half-magical devotion an animal can have to a person. And for those who are NOT dog-lovers (or who are on the fence), Susan Orlean’s explanation is about as good as it gets:

“It was the story of an extraordinary journey – across land and sea, in war and in peacetime, from poverty to wealth and back again, from obscurity to fame – and, from there, into the murky world of the once famous and almost obscure. It w
I listened to the audio version of this book. It was read by the author. Honestly, Ms. Orlean should definitely have had a professional read this book. She used little inflection and then when she finally did, it seemed to appear in the wrong places! Her voice is very monotonous and it was hard to concentrate on what she was saying.

That being said, the first part of the book was interesting. Reading about how Lee Duncan found Rin Tin Tin in France after World War I and managed to bring him back
Tina Hamilton
Nov 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
I could not put down this book. I think that Susan Orlean is a fine writer. However, I am not a lover of dogs, especially German Shepherds. But, oh, the story behind the story of Rin Tin Tin is fascinating and covers much history of the early film industry from silent, to talkies and from black and white to color. Then television makes it appearance with the three main channels. All of this affected Rin Tin Tin's popularity, loss of popularity, the rebirth of popularity, and on and on, and it st ...more
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars. Meandering but fascinating. Events take place over such a long period (there are many generations of Rin Tin Tin) that Orlean covers the late 1800s, orphanages, ranch life, the history of dog breeds, World War I, military cemeteries, silent films, a dog cemetery in Paris, the Depression, the origins of dog training for nonprofessionals, talkies, early television, the origins of merchandising, fan conventions, and the rise of the lawsuit.

Trivia about "Rinty":

* The name com
Oct 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Glad I read this rather than the Steve Jobs bio. This book's subject is much like the American West, mythic. Much more than a story about a dog and an American icon it's also about America's fascination with animals and movies. Lots of revelatory info here, like how the name Rover came into common usage. Absolutely fascinating narrative of the dog and the people involved. It's obsessive, tragic,and personal. Some great deep thought moments by the author as she talks about life and the decisions ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At one point late in Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, Susan Orlean laments the sad truth that "we outlive our dogs." An odd sentiment in a book that spends over three hundred pages proving the opposite.

I am a little loath to admit that I never really cared about Rin Tin Tin in my life. He didn't make an impression on my childhood, as he had Orlean's. My childhood was more about cartoon pups: Scooby-Doo and Snoopy, and Copper from The Fox and the Hound. If I wanted to take a trip in the Wayb
Kyleigh M
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought this was an inspirational yet long book! I thought the book was a little hard to follow at some times where there were so many people named and so many movies. Even so, this book was really good. I loved how dedicated the author was to her research. There were loads of facts you would never be able to find on the internet that were in this book. I never knew that Disney almost bought Rin Tin Tin IV! I feel that he would have been a lot more well known if he had. All in all, this was a ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Every single thing there is to know about Rin Tin Tin and his "brand"! Would make a good movie using only the best parts. ...more
Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I wanted to read this based on my enjoyment of Susan Orlean's amazing book The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession. I think that was the first book I'd ever read that used her style of narrative, interweaving many different stories into one larger tale -- I've been hooked ever since.

I don't really consider myself a dog person, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but I wasn't disappointed. Orlean examines not only the lives of Rin Tin Tin (whose fame was before my time)
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I'm the product of a happy and uneventful childhood in the suburbs of Cleveland, followed by a happy and pretty eventful four years as a student at University of Michigan. From there, I wandered to the West Coast, landing in Portland, Oregon, where I managed (somehow) to get a job as a writer. This had been my dream, of course, but I had no experience and no credentials. What I did have, in spades ...more

Articles featuring this book

Her Favorite Books About Dogs: The animal-loving New Yorker writer shares her top canine reads in honor of her new biography of Hollywood star Rin...
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“It's human nature to set a point in our minds when we feel triumphant and to measure everything that comes after it by how far we fall or rise from that point.” 8 likes
“When Rin Tin Tin first became famous, most dogs in the world would not sit down when asked. Dogs performed duties: they herded sheep, they barked at strangers, they did what dogs do naturally, and people learned to interpret and make use of how they behaved. The idea of a dog's being obedient for the sake of good manners was unheard of. When dogs lived outside, as they usually did on farms and ranches, the etiquette required of them was minimal. But by the 1930s, Americans were leaving farms and moving into urban and suburban areas, bringing dogs along as pets and sharing living quarters with them. At the time, the principles of behavior were still mostly a mystery -- Ivan Pavlov's explication of conditional reflexes, on which much training is based, wasn't even published in an English translation until 1927. If dogs needed to be taught how to behave, people had to be trained to train their dogs. The idea that an ordinary person -- not a dog professional -- could train his own pet was a new idea, which is partly why Rin Tin Tin's performances in movies and onstage were looked upon as extraordinary.” 6 likes
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