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Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legendby Susan Orlean
Synopses & Reviews
He believed the dog was immortal.
So begins Susan Orlean’s sweeping, powerfully moving account of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon. Orlean, a staff writer at The New Yorker who has been hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post, spent nearly ten years researching and reporting her most captivating book to date: the story of a dog who was born in 1918 and never died.
It begins on a battlefield in France during World War I, when a young American soldier, Lee Duncan, discovered a newborn German shepherd in the ruins of a bombed-out dog kennel. To Duncan, who came of age in an orphanage, the dog’s survival was a miracle. He saw something in Rin Tin Tin that he felt compelled to share with the world. Duncan brought Rinty home to California, where the dog’s athleticism and acting ability drew the attention of Warner Bros. Over the next ten years, Rinty starred in twenty-three blockbuster silent films that saved the studio from bankruptcy and made him the most famous dog in the world. At the height of his popularity, Rin Tin Tin was Hollywood’s number one box office star.
During the decades that followed, Rinty and his descendants rose and fell with the times, making a tumultuous journey from silent films to talkies, from black-and-white to color, from radio programs to one of the most popular television shows of the baby boom era, The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin. The canine hero’s legacy was cemented by Duncan and a small group of others—including Bert Leonard, the producer of the TV series, and Daphne Hereford, the owner of the current Rin Tin Tin—who have dedicated their lives to making sure the dog’s legend will never die.
At its core, Rin Tin Tin is a poignant exploration of the enduring bond between humans and animals. It is also a richly textured history of twentieth-century entertainment and entrepreneurship. It spans ninety years and explores everything from the shift in status of dogs from working farmhands to beloved family members, from the birth of obedience training to the evolution of dog breeding, from the rise of Hollywood to the past and present of dogs in war. Filled with humor and heart and moments that will move you to tears, Susan Orlean’s first original book since The Orchid Thief is an irresistible blend of history, human interest, and masterful storytelling—a dazzling celebration of a great American dog by one of our most gifted writers.
Nearly ten years in the making and perfect for the holidays, Susan Orlean’s first original book since the celebrated bestseller The Orchid Thief is the publishing event of the season: a sweeping, surprising, and powerfully moving work of narrative nonfiction about the dog actor and international icon, Rin Tin Tin.
German shepherd Rin Tin Tin’s journey is the story of the twentieth century. From the discovery of Rin Tin Tin on a WWI battlefield in 1918, to the movies, radio programs, and the 1950s television show that would cement his legacy around the world, Rin Tin Tin traces the extraordinary history of the dog and his descendants over more than ninety years. Rin Tin Tin was a star (he received 10,000 fan letters a week); a worldwide sensation; a social figure (as the U.S. Army’s WWII mascot, he inspired thousands of Americans to donate their dogs for use in the war); and a baby-boom touchstone. He was also a real dog, and the book tells the epic love story between Rin Tin Tin and the remarkable people who devoted their lives to him and his legacy.
Rin Tin Tin is also Orlean’s meditation on the nature of heroism, loyalty, and memory, and how Rin Tin Tin has lasted for so many generations. “Rin Tin Tin could leap twelve feet,” she writes, “and he could leap through time.”
Like no one else, Orlean crafts brilliantly engaging, witty, and passionate narratives about her real-life characters. As The Washington Post Book World has said, her “snapshot-vivid, pitch-perfect prose…is fast becoming one of our national treasures.” A tour de force of history, emotion, and masterful storytelling, here is the ultimate tale for anyone who loves great dogs or great journalism.
Acclaimed bestselling author of The Orchid Thief Susan Orleans traces the life and enduring legacy of canine hero Rin Tin Tin.
About the Author
Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film Adaptation. She lives with her family and her animals in upstate New York and may be reached at SusanOrlean.com and Twitter.com/SusanOrlean.Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film Adaptation. She lives with her family and her animals in upstate New York and may be reached at SusanOrlean.com and Twitter.com/SusanOrlean.
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