Susan Orlean

  • Aired:  11/17/11
  •  | Views: 13,063

Author Susan Orlean recounts Rin Tin Tin's journey from stray puppy on a World War I battlefield to silent film star. (6:35)

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ).

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK,

EVERYBODY.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS A WRITER FOR

THE "NEW YORKER" AND AN AUTHOR

OF A BIOGRAPHY OF RIN TIN TIN.

IT MAKES SENSE-- I USED THE "NEW

YORKER" TO HOUSE TRAIN MY DOGS.

PLEASE WELCOME SUSAN ORLEAN.

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU.

IS THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING ON.

>> MY PLEASURE.

>> Stephen: OKAY, NOW, YOU

ARE THE WRITER WHO WROTE THE

"ORCHID THIEF."

>> I AM.

>> Stephen: EVERYBODY KNOWS

THAT AND THAT WAS MADE INTO THE

MOVIE ADAPTATION IN WHICH YOU

WERE PLAYED BY MERYL STREEP.

NOW YOU HAVE THE BIOGRAPHY OF

"RIN TIN TIN: THE LIFE AND THE

"RIN TIN TIN: THE LIFE AND THE

LEGEND."

DO YOU THINK STREEP COULD PLAY

RIN TIN TIN?

SHE COULD.

>> I THINK-- YEAH, THE ACCENT--

I DON'T-- YES.

>> Stephen: SHE CAN DO IT

ALL.

>> SHE CAN DO ANYTHING.

>> Stephen: SHE CAN DO IT

ALL.

>> ALTHOUGH SHE WOULD BE HONORED

BY THE ROLE BECAUSE SHE'S A

GREAT ACTOR.

>> Stephen: TELL ME ABOUT THE

DOG.

THIS WASN'T JUST A DOG ACTING.

>> RIGHT.

>> Stephen: THE ROLE OF RIN

TIN TIN.

RIN TIN TIN WAS THE ACTUAL DOG.

>> RIGHT.

RIN TIN TIN STARTED-- HE WAS A

REAL DOG.

HE WAS A PUPPY FOUND ON A

BATTLEFIELD IN WORLD WAR I.

MOST PEOPLE KNOW HIM AS A

TELEVISION CHARACTER.

>> Stephen: RIGHT, I REMEMBER

FROM THE 50S AND 60'S, THE ROW

RUNS OF THE BOY AND RIN TIN TIN.

>> RIGHT.

IT WAS RUSTY AND RIP MASTERS.

BUT WHAT WAS INCREDIBLE-- AND

THE REASON I ENDED UP DOING THE

BOOK WAS DISCOVERING THAT HE WAS

A REAL DOG FOUND IN A BOMBED OUT

GERMAN DOG KENNEL ON A

BATTLEFIELD IN FRANCE, WAS

BROUGHT BACK TO THE UNITED

STATES AND THIS WAS IN 1918.

AND THEN HE BECAME A HUGE SILENT

FILM STAR.

>> Stephen: HOW DO YOU GO

FROM A DOG FOUND ON A

BATTLEFIELD TO A SILENT FILM

STAR?

BECAUSE WHO IS THE SOLDIER WHO

FOUND HIM?

>> A MAN NAMED LEE DUNCAN.

>> Stephen: WAS HE IN

HOLLYWOOD ALREADY.

SN HOW DO YOU GET TO HOLLYWOOD

WITH YOUR DOG?

>> HE LIVED IN LOS ANGELES AND

HE SPENT ALL OF HIS TIME

TRAPPING THE DOG.

THERE WAS ANOTHER DOG WHO WAS

STARRING IN FILM AT THE TIME.

HIS NAME WAS STRONGHEART.

AND GERMAN SHEPPARD WERE A NEW

BREED.

MOST AMERICANS HAD NEVER SEEN

ONE.

SO THEY WERE A SENSATION.

AND A LOT OF SOLDIERS CAME BACK

FROM WORLD WORLD WAR I SAYING WE'VE

JUST SEEN THESE AMAZING DOGS.

SO LEE TRAINED HIM AND TRAINED

HIM AND ONE DAY THOUGHT, I THINK

HE'S GOT STAR POWER.

HE HAD BEEN FILMED CLEARING A

FENCE OF 11 FEET AT A DOG SHOW.

>> Stephen: JUMPING OVER AN

11-FOOT FENCE.

>> YES, WHICH IS AMAZING.

>> Stephen: IF HE ACTUALLY

CLEARED THE FENCE THAT WOULD BE

IMPRESSIVE, TOO.

>> MAYBE MORE IMPRESSIVE.

AND THIS CLIP OF HIM JUMPING

OVER THIS FENCE WAS USED IN A

NEUSS REEL AND I THINK THAT WAS

THE POINT WHERE WE BEGAN

THINKING MAYBE HE CAN GO TO

HOLLYWOOD.

HE WALKED UP AND DOWN SUNSET

BOULEVARD.

AT THAT TIME HOLLYWOOD WAS A NEW

INDUSTRY, AND YOU COULD

LITERALLY KNOCK ON DOORS AND

SAY, "LOOK, MY DOG IS REALLY

SMART AND TALENTED."

>> Stephen: SO HOW BIG OF A

STAR ARE WE TALKING TALKING ABOUT WITH

RIN TIN TIN?

IF THIS STARTED AFTER WORLD WAR

I, AND I GROWING UP KNEW ABOUT

RIN TIN TIN, HE MUST HAVE BEEN

ENORMOUS.

>> HE WAS HUGE.

IN FACT HE WAS THE FIRST

INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED

AMERICAN STAR.

HE WAS THE NUMBER ONE BOX OFFICE

PERFORMER IN MUCH OF THE 20s.

>> Stephen: HE WAS THE TOM

CRUISE.

>> YEAH.

>> Stephen: OF THE 1920s

( LAUGHTER ).

>> AND HE WAS GOING TO BE

AWARDED THE FIRST BEST ACTOR

OSCAR.

>> Stephen: THE FIRST BEST

ACTOR OSCAR TO THIS DOG

( LAUGHTER ).

>> YES.

BUT THERE WERE PEOPLE IN THE

ACADEMY, WHICH WAS THEN A VERY

NEW INDUSTRY, INSTITUTION, WHERE

THEY STARTED THINKING, WOULD IT

LOOK STRANGE IF WE GIVE OUR

FIRST BEST ACTOR OSCAR TO A DOG?

>> Stephen: SO HE WON THE

VOTE AND DIDN'T GET THE OSCAR,

AND YET TOM HANKS HAS TWO

( LAUGHTER )

BUT I HAPPEN TO KNOW HIS COAT IS

NOT SILKY AT ALL.

>> NO, NO!

>> Stephen: SO LET'S SHOW THE

PEOPLE WHY RIN TIN TIN WAS SUCH

A BIG STAR.

JIM.

♪ ♪ ♪

>> Stephen: THAT'S EXCITING

STUFF.

( LAUGHTER )

( APPLAUSE )

I GOTTA ASK, IT WAS HARD TO TELL

FROM THE FOOTAGE.

WAS HE FIXED?

( LAUGHTER ).

>> NO.

>> Stephen: HE WASN'T.

>> NO, AND IT'S NOT HARD AT ALL

TO TELL LATER IN THE FILM.

>> Stephen: REALLY, HE'S GOT

A BIG PAIR OF SLINGERS?

>> HE-- HE HAD 44 CHILDREN.

>> Stephen: HE HAD 44

CHILDREN!

NOW, DID ANY OF THOSE KIDS GO ON

TO BECOME STARS?

>> YES, WHEN HE DIED IN 1932,

WHICH, BY THE WAY, WAS SUCH A

BIG EVENT, THAT BROADCASTING

THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES WAS

INTERRUPTED WITH THE NEWS

BULLETIN TO REPORT THIS.

AND HIS SON, JUNIOR, THEN

STEPPED IN AND CARRY ON THE

TRADITION.

>> Stephen: RIN TIN TIN JR.

>> RIGHT, AND THEN THE THIRD AND

FOURTH.

>> Stephen: SO JUNIOR'S KIDS?

>> JUNIOR'S JUNIOR.

>> Stephen: WELL, THAT'S

HOLLYWOOD.

IT'S WHO YOU KNOW

( LAUGHTER )

WAS IT HARD FOR RIN TIN TIN TO

GO FROM SILENT FILMS TO TALKIES?

BECAUSE I IMAGINE HE HAD A

GERMAN ACCENT?

>> YEAH

( LAUGHTER )

THAT WAS A PROBLEM.

>> Stephen: IS THERE STILL A

RIN TIN TIN?

>> YUP.

>> Stephen: ONE OF THE ACTUAL

DESCENDANTS?

>> YES.

>> Stephen: STILL ACTING?

>> YES-- WELL HE'S A

SEARCH-AND-RESCUE JOB.

HE'S RIN TIN TIN 12.

BUT THE LINE HAS CONTINUED AND

THAT'S PARTLY WHAT I THOUGHT WAS

AMAZING THAT FOR ALMOST 100

YEARS THIS DOG HAS BEEN A FIGURE

IN AMERICAN CULTURE IN ONE FORM

OR ANOTHER.

>> Stephen: WELL, NOW IN BOOK

FORM.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

SUSAN ORLEAN

( APPLAUSE )

THE BOOK IS "RIN TIN TIN: THE

LIFE AND THE LEGEND."

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.