The AAUW: Books-Sandwiched-In 2012 series opened on Wednesday, March 7th at Joseph & Elizabeth Shaw Public Library with a moving tale about an orphaned puppy from World War I and his soldier owner. Gwen Crandell entertained a crowd of over 20 individuals with her love of the Susan Orlean book Rin Tin Tin.
Gwen Fox, AAUW member, introduced the audience to Crandell, an AAUW member and retired reading teacher from the Clearfield Area School District. Fox spoke of teaching with Crandell and articulated how impressed she has always been by Crandell’s quick ideas and attention to detail.
Crandell, who has a love of reading and good books, first discovered Rin Tin Tin by accident. She heard mention of it on National Public Radio in comparison to another story she greatly enjoyed, Seabiscuit. Intending to purchase the book as a gift for Christmas, she forgot about it until caring for a rescued dog reminded her of the story. After seeing the movie War Horse, another World War I animal story, she purchased the book as an anniversary gift for her husband and found a story she greatly enjoyed.
Rin Tin Tin tells the story of a canine’s journey from orphaned puppy found in a bombed-out dog kennel in France to life as a movie star in Hollywood, California. Rin Tin Tin, who was also known as Rinty, was discovered by American solider Lee Duncan. Crandell described Duncan as a solitary man and a diary writer, a fact that helped to greatly contribute to the story. He was raised in an orphanage with his sister, and found the survival of the German Sheppard puppy miraculous. It took him three hours to rescue the mother dog and her five puppies, Crandell stated. Duncan was able to find others to adopt several of the puppies, but chose to keep the two strongest for himself. Crandell described a scene from the book in which Duncan chooses names for his new puppies. The dogs were named after two Parisian lovers, Rin Tin Tin and Nanette, who escaped a bombing of a railway station. The Parisian lovers were made into dolls which many soldiers carried around as good luck charms.
According to Crandell’s review, Duncan was able to return to the United States with the dogs after the war, but not without a great deal of negotiation and difficulty. Duncan’s close proximity to Hollywood enabled Rin Tin Tin to be noticed as the demand for dog films and the popularity of German Sheppard dogs rose. Rin Tin Tin, the lucky-to-be-alive dog, became a movie star and international icon with his ability to do amazing stunts, such as climb trees and leap. He was involved in 23 major films, of which only six remain today.
Author Susan Orlean states that Rin Tin Tin “stirred something in people”. She quotes one fan as stating, “…his wonderful ability to carry his audience with him in sympathy, mark him as the greatest dog actor of the screen today.” In Crandell’s review, she mentions a section of the book where Rin Tin Tin received the most votes for best actor of that year but was not awarded the prestigious Academy Award because he was a dog.
Rin Tin Tin’s death in 1932 gained a great deal of attention; people from around the world mourned. Fortunately, the legacy of Rin Tin Tin did not pass on with the canine’s death. Additional puppies named after Rin Tin Tin continued the fame of the original star.
Producer Bert Leonard developed an idea for a television show in 1953 called The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin, which tells the story of a boy and his dog as survivors of an Indian raid who are adopted by a lieutenant. In the fall of 1954, the show premiered and ran for six years; the public’s adoration of the show resulted in the sale of Rin Tin Tin merchandise. Crandell, who enjoyed watching television while growing up, disappointedly stated that she was unable to watch The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin because it was not shown where she lived. She did, however, share a humorous excerpt from the story. Only 12 extras were used in filming the show. Each extra was given three costumes and sometimes appeared in the same scene with a different costume on. The audience laughed as Crandell relayed that sometimes an extra killed another character played by the same extra.
The review concluded with Crandell explaining that she wished she could talk longer on such a great book. Fox felt the review was so good that she would like to read the book. She also encouraged the audience members to sign-up for the remaining programs in the AAUW: Books-Sandwiched-In 2012 series.
Rin Tin Tin is available for checkout or hold at Shaw Public Library.
The next AAUW: Books-Sandwiched-In program will be held on March 14th at noon. Denny Shaffner will review Robert Frost’s poetry from the anthology. Reservations for this and future AAUW: Books-Sandwiched-In 2012 events may be placed by calling Shaw Public Library at 814-765-3271 during regular business hours. Shaw Public Library is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., and Fridays from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Additional information may also be found on Shaw Public Library’s website at http://www.clearfield.org/shaw.