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Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean

January 21, 2012 | No Comments

I plunged with wolfish enthusiasm into Rin Tin Tin, Susan Orlean’s account of the enigmatic, handsome movie star’s rise from abandoned puppy in the trenches of the First World War to the doggie-darling of Warner Brothers, largely responsible for the studio’s leap in profits from a mere $16 million to over $200 in just two years, and for making German Shepherds one of the most popular breeds in the world. By far the most fascinating aspect of this book, Orlean’s first since The Orchid Thief, was her sweeping summary of the role played by dogs, either military trained or donated pets, in the armed forces during the World Wars, eye-opening stuff worthy of expansion into a book in itself. Sadly, the narrative lost momentum about half-way through, and I felt Orlean lose her grip on both the material and her overall intent: she became repetitive about Rin Tin Tin’s ability (regardless of whether he was played by Rinty himself, or by one of his offspring or stand-ins) to enchant the viewer by the ideal of perfect friendship, without fully articulating, or proving, what she meant. Lovely cover, though…

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