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Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend Hardcover – Sep 27 2011

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Hardcover, Sep 27 2011
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (Sept. 27 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439190135
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439190135
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 653 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #220,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Magnificent.” Vanity Fair

“Fascinating . . . The sweeping story of the soulful German shepherd who was born on the battlefields of World War I, immigrated to America, conquered Hollywood, struggled in the transition to the talkies, helped mobilize thousands of dog volunteers against Hitler and himself emerged victorious as the perfect family-friendly icon of cold war gunslinging, thanks to the new medium of television. . . . Do dogs deserve biographies? In Rin Tin Tin Susan Orlean answers that question resoundingly in the affirmative . . . By the end of this expertly told tale, she may persuade even the most hardened skeptic that Rin Tin Tin belongs on Mount Rushmore with George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt, or at least somewhere nearby with John Wayne and Seabiscuit.” —Jennifer Schuessler, front cover of The New York Times Book Review

“Remarkable . . . Orlean’s pursuit of detail is mind-boggling. . . . The book is less about a dog than the prototypes he embodied and the people who surrounded him. It is about story-making itself, about devotion, luck and heroes. . . . Ultimately, the reader is left well nourished and in awe of both Orlean’s reportorial devotion and at her magpie ability to find the tiniest sparkling detail." —Alexandra Horowitz, San Francisco Chronicle

“Deeply moving . . . An unforgettable book about the mutual devotion between one man and one dog.” —Scott Eyman, The Wall Street Journal

“Dazzling . . . Susan Orlean has fashioned a masterpiece of reporting and storytelling, some of it quite personal and all of it compelling. Animal-related books have always peppered best-seller lists—Seabiscuit comes quickly to mind—and this one will top such lists. It deserves to, and also to work its way into millions of hearts and minds. . . . [Carl] Sandburg called Rin Tin Tin ‘thrillingly intelligent’ and ‘phenomenal.’ The same can be said for this remarkable book. . . . Spectacular.” Chicago Tribune

“Epic . . . Heartfelt . . . An enormously satisfying story about a dog and the man who believed in him.” —Carol Memmott, USA Today

“Stunning . . . A book so moving it melted the heart of at least this one dogged Lassie lover . . . Don’t let the book’s title fool you. Calling Rin Tin Tin the story of a dog is like calling Moby-Dick the story of a whale. Orlean surfs the tide of time, pushing off in the 1900s and landing in the now, delivering a witty synopsis of nearly a century of Rin Tin Tins and American popular culture. The result is a truly exceptional book that marries historical journalism, memoir, and the technique of character-driven, psychologically astute, finely crafted fiction: a whole far greater than the sum of its parts.” —Meredith Maran, The Boston Globe

“It's a story of magnificent obsession. Nearly a decade in the making, combining worldwide research with personal connection, it offers the kind of satisfactions you only get when an impeccable writer gets hold of one heck of a story. . . . Deft . . . Insightful . . . Fascinating.” —Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“Susan Orlean has written a book about how an orphaned dog became part of millions of households, and hearts, in a way that may reveal the changing bonds between humans and animals, too. . . . One of the many pleasures of this book is the historical breadth of the story.” —Scott Simon, NPR’s Weekend Edition

“An improbably fascinating tale of one of the first canine celebrities, the times that catapulted him to fame, and the legacy that endures.” People magazine’s “Great Fall Reads”

“Brilliant . . . Orlean, a staff writer for The New Yorker, earned considerable critical praise for her 1998 book The Orchid Thief. But if there were any book she was born to write, it's this one. The product of years of dogged research, it's her magnum opus, a work filled with fascinating stories . . . [and] stunning prose that is both compassionate and perceptive.” —Michael Schaub, NPR

“Engrossing . . . Delightful . . . Olean finds much more to the story than a man and his dog . . . . Its heart lies in her exploration of how a dog could come to embody the ideal of heroic devotion and, eventually, exist as an icon outside the boundaries of time.” —Douglass K. Daniel, The Associated Press

“Orlean relates the histories of the original Rin Tin Tin and his various successors with her customary eye for captivating detail.” Entertainment Weekly

“Heartening . . . It’s a story that may surprise you. . . . Rin Tin Tin embodied the spirit of America.” —Rita Braver, CBS Sunday Morning

“Rapturous . . . This dog’s eye history of Hollywood in the 1920s is exuberant and told with as much energy as love. . . . It is to be numbered among the best Hollywood biographies.” —David Thomson, The New Republic

“Fascinating . . . Orlean’s deadpan sense of humor and ear for the odd and beguiling fact make it hard to put down the book. But there’s also something haunting about it, a sense of the brevity of life and fame. . . . Orlean’s writing is built to last. As individual as a fingerprint, or a face, it turns what could have been a footnote to history into a touching account of the way one life resonates with others.” —Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch

Rin Tin Tin is a tale of devotion . . . [and] an eloquent, powerful inquiry into ‘how we create heroes and what we want from them,’ and about what endures in our culture. . . . Orlean’s book runs much deeper than Baby Boomer nostalgia. . . . Orlean manages to surprise us repeatedly.” —Heller McAlpin, The Christian Science Monitor

“It is a book that is best read in solitude, or at least in the company of someone who won't be annoyed when you speak up every few moments to share some fascinating fact that Orlean has uncovered, which she does on nearly every page.” —Robert Philpot, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Rin Tin Tin was more than a dog. He embodied the core paradoxes of the American ideal: He was a loner who was also a faithful companion, a brave fighter who was also vulnerable. I was astonished to learn from this delightful book that he has existed for eleven generations over a century. By chronicling his amazing ups and downs, Susan Orlean has produced a hugely entertaining and unforgettable reading experience.” —Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs

“Not only does Susan Orlean give us a fascinating and big-hearted account of all the many incarnations of Rin Tin Tin, she shows us the ever-changing role of American dogs in times of war and peace. This book is for anyone who has ever had a dog or loved a dog or watched a dog on television or thought their dog could be a movie star. In short—everyone.” —Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto

“I adored this book. It weaves history, war, show business, humanity, wit, and grace into an incredible story about America, the human-animal bond, and the countless ways we would be lost without dogs by our sides, on our screens, and in our books. This is the story Susan Orlean was born to tell—it’s filled with amazing characters, reporting, and writing.” —Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“Move over Seabiscuit, Rin Tin Tin will be the most-talked-about animal hero of the year and beyond. . . A spectacularly compelling portrait . . . Engrossing, dynamic, and affecting."Booklist (starred review)

“[Orlean] combines all her skills and passions in this astonishing story . . . A terrific dog’s tale that will make readers sit up and beg for more.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Stirring . . . A tale of passion and dedication overcoming adversity. . . . Even readers coming to Rin Tin Tin for the first time will find it difficult to refrain from joining Duncan in his hope that Rin Tin Tin’s legacy will ‘go on forever.’” Publishers Weekly

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 and

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Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 7 2012
Format: Hardcover
"So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, 'Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.'" -- Judges 7:5 (NKJV)

As God pointed out in Judges 7:5, there's a lot that can be learned from dogs. Ms. Orlean in Rin Tin Tin takes that point to its furthest extension in my experience. If you are a fan of the New Yorker, you know that its nonfiction pieces can be beyond encyclopedic in scope, taking you to places where your mind has questioned ... but hasn't taken the time to seek. Rin Tin Tin is like having months of the New Yorker in which each issue has some new aspect of Rin Tin Tin tied back to all the other pieces.

Ms. Orlean has three admirable skills that are part of this book's highlights: She can weave together a nonfiction story with the artistry of a novelist in connecting various elements and characters; her imagination pulls her to places and questions that take readers beyond what they could conceive of for themselves; and she has the dogged (pun intended) determination to keep turning over stones until something interesting turns up.

Before commenting further, let me explain my perspective. I'm a dog lover, but don't care for German shepherds. I grew up just a few miles from where Lee Duncan lived and bred dogs for many years in Riverside, California. Despite being invited to visit Lee Duncan and his current Rin Tin Tin many times, I passed. I watched the television show as a youngster (I'm a little older than Ms. Orlean), but I liked Lassie better. As a youngster, the story of the original Rin Tin Tin didn't excite me. I find it more interesting now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen TOP 100 REVIEWER on Jan. 27 2012
Format: Hardcover
Most of us, at least of sufficient age, have heard of Rin Tin Tin, either from the television show or movies, but what was it, a dog, a character, a dream, a myth? As author Susan Orlean tells us, he was a bit of each.

Rin Tin Tin was a German Shepherd rescued from a battlefield in France in 1918 by an American soldier, Lee Duncan. Duncan brought him home and turned him into a movie star, a cult and a dynasty. Starting in silent films, the original Rin Tin Tin became the idol of millions. In the silent films the animals were often the stars whereas in talkies they assumed more supporting roles. As time passed Lee came to realize that owners usually outlive their dogs so Lee designated a Rin Tin Tin, Jr. and a series of successors.

Through Lee and a series of dogs Rin Tin Tin remained in the public eye, becoming a spokesdog for products, such as dog food and the figurehead for the War Dogs program during World War II. After the war the Rin Tin Tin Dynasty adapted to television with a program set in the West that ran for several years. Eventually Lee Duncan died and the Rin Tin Tin legacy was preserved by Bert Leonard, who had promoted the "brand" for several years, including the television program. As that was winding down, Jannettia Brodsgaard bought a Rinty descendent and established a line Texas. Sadly, like so many American stories, the courts would become involved in determining who had the rights to the Rin Tin Tin name and property.

Besides what Rin Tin Tin meant to the public, it became a life's work and a life's companion for his discoverer, Lee Duncan and some others who were captured in its orbit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dogs in Canada on Nov. 14 2011
Format: Hardcover
"Once upon a time, a hapless puppy was found, became a star, inspired people, stood for something, and endured." A staff writer for THE NEW YORKER, best-selling author Orleans is a thorough researcher. Her examination of how one dog had a profound impact on so many lives incorporates forays into the beginnings of Hollywood and TV, the German Shepherd Dog's origin and meteoric rise in popularity; the idea of dogs as heroes, as family companions, of obedience as a sport and of teaching owners how to train their dogs. I started this book one evening and had to make myself turn off the light at 3 a.m. Orleans' mingling of history with story telling is irresistible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Suhail Zubaid AHMAD TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Feb. 22 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about a favourite TV character of the days gone by. Of course, you get to know about the origin of Rin Tin Tin, how and where was he found as a puppy, and about the person who found him and owned him. But this is not just about it.

Author Susan Orlean does a magnificent job in not only telling us about the dog through primary research, but in the process, educates us about the horrors of the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War and about the development of German Shepherd dogs as a breed, the age of the silent movies and talkies, development of Hollywood as a centre of film making, advent of television and its development, change in dog culture, the baby boomers, merchandising around popular TV programs, competitor dogs like Strongheart, Lassie, etc., so on and so forth. It kept a person like me deeply engrossed, but herein lies the problem also.

As long as the author stuck with the original Rin Tin Tin and his owner Lee Duncan, the story remained very interesting. For the second half of the book, her focus went off Rin Tin Tin and Duncan. My guess is that she could not find enough material on the dog itself to write about him as a central character. Instead, because of the available records, she started building the story on all attendant characters.

If you are a person like me who is interested in reading the main story and anything that is offered as an additional learning material, this book is for you. If you are interested only in Rin Tin Tin, the Dog then the second half of the book will prove to be a tad drag.

The book itself is easy to read due to large fonts. It is organized in chapters and sub-chapters that are easy to handle. It has some pictures also, although I would have welcomed more.
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