Lassie is a fictional collie dog character created by Eric Knight in a short story expanded to novel length called Lassie Come-Home. Published in 1940, the novel was filmed by MGM in 1943 as Lassie Come Home with a dog named Pal playing Lassie. Pal then appeared with the stage name "Lassie" in six other MGM feature films through 1951. Pal's owner and trainer Rudd Weatherwax then acquired the Lassie name and trademark from MGM and appeared with Pal (as "Lassie") at rodeos, fairs, and similar events across America in the early 1950s. In 1954, the long-running, Emmy winning television series Lassie debuted, and, over the next 19 years, a succession of Pal's descendants appeared on the series. The "Lassie" character has appeared in radio, television, film, toys, comic books, animated series, juvenile novels, and other media. Pal's descendants continue to play Lassie today.
cording to writer Nigel Clarke, the original Lassie who inspired so many films and television episodes was a rough-haired crossbreed who saved the life of a sailor during World War I.
Half collie, Lassie was owned by the landlord of the Pilot Boat, a pub in the port of Lyme Regis. On New Year's Day in 1915, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Formidable was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine off Start Point in South Devon, with the loss of more than 500 men. One of the ship's life rafts, containing many bodies, was blown by gales along the coast and was washed ashore in Dorset. The bodies were laid out on the table of the local pub. The pub dog, Lassie, began to lick one sailor's feet, and someone noticed the man was reacting to it—so they revived him. Hollywood got hold of the story, and so a star was born.
The fictional character of Lassie was created by English American author Eric Knight in Lassie Come-Home, first published as a short story the Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and later as a full-length novel in 1940. Set in the Depression-era England, the novel depicts the lengthy journey a rough collie makes to be reunited with her young Yorkshire master after his family is forced to sell her for money. In 1943, the novel was adapted into a feature film, Lassie Come Home, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) that starred Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie was a hit and enjoyed favorable critical response. MGM followed this with several additional films, including a sequel entitled Son of Lassie (1945), starring Peter Lawford and June Lockhart, and Courage of Lassie with Elizabeth Taylor. A radio series, Lassie Radio Show, was also created, airing until 1949.
Between 1954–1973, the television series, Lassie was broadcast in America, with Lassie initially residing on a farm with a young male master. In the eleventh season, she changed to adult forestry workers as her companions, then had the collie on her own for awhile before ending the series with Lassie residing at a ranch for troubled children. The long-running series was the recipient of two Emmy Awards before it was canceled in 1973. A second series followed in the 1980s. In 1997, Canadian production company Cinar Inc. produced a new Lassie television series for the Animal Planet network in the U.S. and YTV in Canada. It ran until 1999.
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.
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 the Century"—the only animal star on the list.