M&C takes a look at canine stars and why we love dogs in movies

There are those who firmly believe that the year 2008 has gone to the dogs.  Given the worldwide economic crisis, one would tend to agree, but that is not the meaning we are looking for here. 

For films, 2008 has been a good year for movies that feature canine actors, with hits such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua a look at how the other half of the dog world lives, through Beethoven’s Big Break where a homeless trouble attracting dog makes it big in the movies and gains a family.  The sweeping finish to a year of furred characters is the sweetly touching and funny Marley & Me, a memoir of a man and his dog that is in theaters now.

Humans and dogs share a long history of co-operative living.  Dogs were the first animal to be domesticated and brought into the human’s style of living, and for better or worse they became our cohorts in the agrarian way of life.  Man depended on dog and dog trusted man. 

These canine “brothers” of humans are seen as loyal, brave, and trustworthy workers, helping man with his toils, as well as loving and faithful companions in his life.  We call the dog man’s best friend, and it is no surprise that we carry the love and respect for this creature into our art forms.  Songs have been written and portraits painted of dogs, and then there are the movies. 

In the movies we have seen stories about brave dogs, lost dogs, amazing dogs, funny dogs, rich dogs, poor dogs, all mirroring the human condition.  One thing that is appealing to humans is that dogs seem to have a sense of humor, they know when they are being funny and making us laugh. 

They know when they are mimicking humans and it seems to tickle them as much as it does us.  On the flip side they are sensitive and know they can break our hearts with a single soulful glance.  Dogs are natural born actors, and it is incredible to see what they can do when given a role or a task to perform to be filmed.

Time Magazine has recently published their list of the top ten dog movies.  In chronological order these are: Lassie Come Home (1943), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Old Yeller (1957), 101 Dalmatians (1961), Cujo (1983), The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986), Turner and Hooch (1989), Beethoven (1992), Homeward Bound (1993) and Best in Show (2000.) 

Well, with the exception of Cujo, which is just creepy to think about as a FAVORITE dog film, the list is pretty much on target with what my co-workers and friends have picked as the best dog pictures.  We do have a few that didn’t make Time’s cut. 

There are dog films, or films with a dog in them that have touched the heart or tickled the humor of viewers, and these are our additions to the list.

Favorite Dogs in Movies, or Dog Movies Not Already on the List:

Rin Tin Tin – To the best of my knowledge, the original Rin Tin Tin was the first canine film star.  He was found as a puppy in France by American soldier Lee Duncan at the end of World War I.  Mr. Duncan brought “Rinty” back to the states and trained him to do tricks.  He was “discovered” and starred in several films, mostly silent, but four had sound. 

His first starring role was in Where The North Begins (1923).  Before he became a “star” he played a wolf in several films.  He was posthumously honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  According to Wikipedia, the tenth generation Rin Tin Tin is still touring and promoting responsible pet ownership and care. 

The Ugly Dachshund (Disney 1966) – Anyone who has owned Dachshunds and/or Great Danes will list this movie, as a favorite.  Based on a novel, it displays the idiosyncrasies of both dog breeds.  Together they are mayhem, but well, usually more than one dog in a household tends to make things very lively. 

Legally Blonde – We have several votes for Bruiser, the Chihuahua who accompanies Reese Witherspoon to law school.  His understated acting style and consummate ability to accessorize, or at least carry off the accessories put on him, make him an important addition to our list of canine stars.

Pluto – Mickey Mouse’s staunch friend and companion.  He has starred in numerous animated adventures, from trying to manage house-wrecking kittens all on his own, to rescuing Mickey from numerous kinds of danger. 

Pluto is the essence of canine wisdom and yet can exhibit the perplexity of understanding given what the human (or Mouse in this case) world dishes out.  He is a hero, but first of all he is a dog.

Wizard of Oz (1939) - Toto.  Who didn’t fall in love with Dorothy’s best friend and loyal companion Toto.  Played by a Cairn Terrier named Terry, the Wizard of Oz was just one of fourteen films to her credit.

Back to the Future (I, II, III) – The dog Einstein (played by Freddie in all three films) was important to Doc Brown.  Not only did Einie participate in some of Doc’s wild experiments, he was a loyal companion to the scientist.

Men In Black – Frank the pug was in both MIB movies, and has a loyal following of fans.

You’ve Got Mail – Brinkley the pet of mega bookstore chain owner Joe Fox (Tom Hanks.)  He emails Kathleen “Shopgirl” (Meg Ryan) about Brinkley’s adventures.  Brinkley figures in the final scene of the movie.

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) - Hobo a big goofy chicken-hearted sheepdog, part of the large Mackay family.  Doris Day and David Niven star but Hobo steals the show in a couple of scenes.

These are some of our favorites to go along with the others listed.  It would be interesting to see what dog in which film inspired you, or made you cry or made you want a dog of your own or fall in love with your own pet yet again.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.