- Rhymes with: -æsi
EtymologyDiminutive of lass.
Lassie is a fictional character that has starred in, or been the subject of, many radio shows, movies, TV shows, and books, entertaining generations of children around the world from 1938 to the present.
1930s–1940sThe character of Lassie was created by British-American author Eric Knight in the short story "Lassie Come-Home" published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and as the novel Lassie Come-Home in 1940. In Knight's story set in Depression-era England, a young Yorkshire boy owns an exceptionally beautiful and loyal collie (described as mahogany and sable in color), but when the family faces severe economic hardship, the dog is sold to a wealthy nobleman. Both boy and dog grieve over the separation, made worse when the new owner transports Lassie hundreds of miles away to his estate in Scotland. However, the collie's instinct and courage cause her to escape, and the book follows Lassie's desperate efforts to return to the boy she loves.
In 1943, the book was made into the first Lassie movie, Lassie Come Home, which generally followed the plot of the book, and which starred Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie was a hit and enjoyed favorable critical response.
MGM followed its success with more movies in the 1940s featuring the canine hero: In 1945, Son of Lassie premiered, starring Peter Lawford and June Lockhart. The next year, 1946, Courage of Lassie premiered (with Elizabeth Taylor, from the first film), and the "Lassie Radio Show" began (aired until 1949).
1950s–1990sBetween 1954-1973, there was a long-running television series, Lassie, in the U.S. Eventually, other series followed in the 1980s and 1990s from different production companies. In 1997, a Canadian production company, Cinar Inc. (now Cookie Jar Entertainment), produced a third Lassie television series (1997–1999) for the Animal Planet network in the U.S. and YTV in Canada.
The various series had different casts, with some tying back to the original series and others being new concepts. All included the basic theme of Lassie being a highly intelligent collie frequently helping her owners get out of trouble, making the Lassie concept one of the longest running of any collective series.
In 2005, a remake of the original Lassie Come Home movie was produced in the United Kingdom. Starring Peter O'Toole and Samantha Morton, Lassie was released in 2006. It was warmly received by critics such as Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune, who called the acting "splendid" and "excellent".
The copyrights to the films and series are split because so many production companies picked up the story (and changed its characters and focus) over the years. The rights to the trademark of "Lassie" and TV series are held by Classic Media; however, Warner Bros./Turner Entertainment holds the rights to the "Lassie" films originally made by MGM.
Many of the movies and TV episodes are widely available on VHS and DVD, and are still aired on television. The 1954 – 1957 episodes of the Lassie TV show were later syndicated as Jeff's Collie and televised on the Animal Planet channel, along with the later seasons of the series which retained their original title of "Lassie." The later seasons' programs featuring Jon Provost and Robert Bray continue to be rerun in many countries.
Lassie continues to make personal appearances as well as marketing a line of pet food and a current pet care TV show, Lassie's Pet Vet on PBS stations in the United States.
Lassie is one of only three animals (and one of very few fictional characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny) to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – the others being silent-film stars Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart. In 2005, the show business journal Variety named Lassie one of the "100 Icons of all time" – the only animal star on the list.
The dog behind the character
The first dog to star as Lassie in the 1943 movie Lassie Come Home was "Pal", originally from Glamis Collies of California. The original owner could not train the dog and hired Studio Dog Training School to do the job. When the owner could not pay the bill, Pal was acquired and trained by brothers Rudd Weatherwax and Frank Weatherwax. Also assisting with training on the MGM studio lot was Frank Freeman (a.k.a. Frank Inn), who later went on to fame as the trainer of Higgins, the dog who played Benji in a series of 1970s films.In 1950, Rudd Weatherwax co-wrote a book, "The story of Lassie, his discovery and training from puppyhood to stardom", recounting Pal's rise to an international icon.
Pal was bred with a number of female dogs to ensure the Lassie look could be continued. The Lassie looks of sable coat with a white blaze, large white collar, and four white paws is legally trademarked. The collies are also intentionally bred oversized so that the males selected can work with older child stars.
All collies playing Lassie have been male, playing a female dog. The female collie loses her coat at least once a year, making it unsuitable for use year-round. Also, the male is larger and a child actor can play opposite the dog for longer before outgrowing him.
Eight generations of Pal and his descendants portrayed the beloved collie in more than ten movies and two television series, until the late 1990s. All of the canines starring in those movies and TV series were owned and trained by Frank and Rudd Weatherwax and later by Rudd's son, Robert Weatherwax.
This tradition continued in 1997, when Cinar began shooting the third Lassie television series for the Animal Planet network. In the first season (1997–1998), Lassie was played by "Howard", an eighth generation collie descended from Pal.
Following Animal Planet's cancellation of the TV show, Classic Media subsequently acquired the Lassie trademark from the Weatherwax family in 2000.
In late 2005, following the shooting of the movie, Classic Media contracted with Carol Riggins to supply "Hey Hey II", as the ninth generation Lassie in the Pal bloodline. More recently, Robert Weatherwax has disputed the use of collies other than his as authentic Pal-bloodline "Lassies", which has received some news media attention and comment on Lassie fan websites.
Lassie in the media
- Lassie Come Home (1943) - Pal plays the title character.
- Son of Lassie (1945 - Pal plays the title character, while another dog appears as Lassie.
- Courage of Lassie (1946) - stars Elizabeth Taylor, who also appeared in the first film; despite the title, this one features Pal as "Bill".
- Hills of Home a.k.a. Master of Lassie (1948) - Pal actually plays "Lass."
- Challenge to Lassie (1949) - retells Greyfriar's Bobby story.
- The Sun Comes Up (1949) - stars Jeanette MacDonald as a bereaved mother who hates Lassie (played by Pal), due to the dog's inadvertent role in her son's death.
- The Painted Hills (1951) - Pal plays "Shep".
- Big Jake (1971) An unknown, uncredited descendant of Pal plays "Dog".
- The Magic of Lassie (1978)
- Lassie (1994)
- Meiken Lassie (1996) - an animal television series which was produced in Japan.
- Lassie (2005) - Mason stars as Lassie.
- Lassie (1954-1973) – produced in the U.S. on the CBS television network, first starring Tommy Rettig, later Jon Provost, and finally Robert Bray
- Lassie's Rescue Rangers (1970s) – a cartoon series by Filmation,
- The New Lassie (1989-1991) – produced in the U.S. in first-run syndication, set in Glenridge, California. Will Nipper, later known as Will Estes, played Lassie's boy.
- Lassie (1997 TV series) (1997-1999) – produced by Cinar of Canada for the Animal Planet network, starring Corey Sevier as "Timmy Cabot" and set in mythical Hudson Falls, Vermont, although the show was actually filmed in Quebec
- Whose Line Is It Anyway? – As a guest appearance with Wayne Brady and Brad Sherwood during the skit "Duet", where Wayne and Brad sang a country song to Lassie.
- Meiken Lassie (Famous Dog Lassie) – an animation produced in Japan by Nippon Animation from January 14, 1996 to August 18, 1996.
- Lassie's Pet Vet – a current PBS pet-care program.
- Lassie Come-Home
- Lassie - A Dog's Life: The First 50 Years
- The Lassie Method
- Magic of Lassie
- Painted Hills
- The Story of Lassie
- Lassie: A Christmas Story
- Challenge to Lassie
- The Sun Comes Up
- Lassie: The Prize
- Forest Ranger Handbook
- Lassie: A Boy's Best Friend & Buried Treasure
- Lassie: Party Nightmare & Water Watchdog
- Lassie: Skateboard Stunt & Danger Zone
- Lassie and the Lost Little Sheep
- Lassie's Forest Adventure
- Lassie: Rescue in the Storm
- Lassie and the Mystery of Blackberry Bog
- Lassie and the Secret of the Summer
- Lassie: Forbidden Valley
- Lassie: Treasure Hunter
- Lassie: the Wild Mountain Trail
- Lassie and the Mystery of Bristlecone Pine
- Lassie and the Secret of the Smelter's Cave
- Lassie: Lost in the Snow
- Lassie: Trouble at Panter's Lake
Big Little Books
- Lassie: Adventure in Alaska
- Lassie and the Shabby Sheik
- Lassie: Old One Eye
- The Adventures of Lassie
- Lassie and Her Day in the Sun
- Lassie and Her Friends
- Lassie and the Big Clean-Up Day
- Lassie and the Daring Rescue
- Lassie and the Lost Explorer
- Lassie Shows the Way
- Lassie: The Great Escape
- Hooray for Lassie!
- Lassie and the Cub Scout
- Lassie and the Deer Mystery
- Lassie and the Firefighters
- Lassie and the Kittens
- Lassie Finds a Friend
- Lassie's Brave Adventure
- Lassie: The Busy Morning
- Lassie: The Sandbar Rescue
- Lassie's Long Trip
- Lassie to the Rescue
- Lassie: Hayloft Hideout
- Lassie Under the Big Top
- Lassie: Treasure at Eagle Mountain
- Lassie: Danger at Echo Cliffs
The New Lassie
- The Puppy Problem
- Digging Up Danger
- The Big Blowup
- Water Watchdog
- Skateboard Dare
- Dangerous Party
- Captain Loxley's Little Dog And Lassie The Life-saving Collie: Hero Dogs of the First World War Associated With The Sinking of H.M.S. Formidable Diggory Press ISBN 978-1905363131
Lassie inspired a number of similar "heroic dog" characters, including:
lassie in Bulgarian: Ласи
lassie in German: Lassie
lassie in Spanish: Lassie
lassie in French: Lassie
lassie in Italian: Lassie
lassie in Hebrew: לאסי חוזרת הביתה
lassie in Dutch: Lassie
lassie in Japanese: 名犬ラッシー
lassie in Norwegian: Lassie
lassie in Portuguese: Lassie
lassie in Russian: Лесси (персонаж)
lassie in Finnish: Lassie
lassie in Swedish: Lassie
lassie in Thai: แลซซี