Where a long career in Hollywood begins

This is going to be utter trivia, maybe of no value whatsoever, and you’ll probably think I’m off my nut and wonder why I don’t have better things to do with my time.

But I’m going ahead with it anyway because I never cease to be amazed at how we make connections.

Recently I read Susan Orlean’s terrific book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend http://susanorlean.com/books/rin-tin-tin.php. While I was in the thick of it, I bought DVDs of two Rin Tin Tin movies of the silent era, Where the North Begins (1923) and The Night Cry (1926).

I’d seen one of the first Rin Tin Tin films on TV several years ago, and remembered thinking: This dog is incredible! Now that I was marveling over the story of his life, I wanted to experience him again on the screen. I couldn’t get over that he had been rescued from a World War I battlefield in France and had grown up to become an icon.

Other than the extraordinary dog, I didn’t expect to see any familiar names associated with either film I’d bought. (Hey, this was the 1920s, just about gone from modern memory.) The directors and cast members are listed on the DVD cases, and I’ve never heard of any of them.

But in the opening credits of Where the North Begins, a name came up that I recognized instantly:

Lewis Milestone, the editor.

Doesn’t ring a bell? Two years later, he would direct his first film. In another two years he got his first Oscar. He got his second Oscar for directing one of the greatest anti-war films of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front, which also got the Academy Award for best picture of 1930.

Here’s the link to info on the movie on the Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0020629/ And here’s the link to Milestone’s biography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0587277/bio

If you watch both Where the North Begins and All Quiet on the Western Front, you’d be amazed at the similarities in how scenes are filmed and cut to convey action and drama. I know I was.

Milestone went on to direct a number of other war films, including A Walk in the Sun (1945), which is one of my favorites; Halls of Montezuma (1950) and Pork Chop Hill (1959).

So OK, you think I’m nuts to be excited about this. I can’t help it.

It’s the idea that one of Hollywood’s stellar directors cut his teeth on a film starring one of the most famous hounds in history.


2 responses to “Where a long career in Hollywood begins

  1. Actually, the story of Rin-Tin-Tin’s birth on a battlefield in September of 1918 very likely is myth. The first story that Duncan told (in October, 1919, to the Los Angeles Times) — and that three officers of his squadron told — goes like this: Duncan and his mates found an adult German shepherd male on the battlefield, and Rin-Tin-Tin was one of a litter born to him and a female German shepherd. That means he was born around the time of the Armistice. Evidence shows that story to be the true one. In a photograph taken after the 135th Aero Squadron arrived back in the United States in May, 1919, Duncan sits on the ground with Rin-Tin-Tin in his arms; next to him is another man with Nanette, Rin-Tin-Tin’s sister. Rin-Tin-Tin’s ears are floppy; Nanette’s stand straight up. German shepherd puppies’ ears start to stand up when they are five or six months old. (That’s also the age the puppies appear to be, not the nine months they would have been had they been born in September.) See my book, Rin-Tin-Tin: The Movie Star, available on Amazon.



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