My web page – www.strongheart.com.au – and what the heck does that mean?
On my About page I said that one of my interests was dogs. I’ve never gone more than a year or so without a dog, and for the past ten or so years I have worked part-time as a professional dog trainer. I am a life member of the National Dog Trainers Federation (hopefully they will fix their web page but and update their Facebook page which once was pretty good) and an associate member of the APDT Australia and APDT America.
I lecture for the NDTF and specialise in the law and desensitisation. I do casual dog training with 4Paws K9 Training in Keilor and have been a volunteer trainer with Assistance Dogs Australia. But what has that got to do with Strongheart – not much unless you know who Strongheart is …
Strongheart was one of the first dogs to feature in the movies. Strongheart (aka Etzel von Oeringen) was discovered in 1920 by an animal trainer, Larry Trimble, and his wife and screenwriter, Jane Murfin. Trimble was looking for a dog that had that something special. He found Strongheart in Germany. A trained military dog, the three year old Etzel von Oeringen was considered “a deadly, four-legged fighting machine” with a hair trigger response. Trimble described the dog as one that “had never played with a child, had never known the fun of retrieving a ball or a stick, had never been petted, in short, had never been a dog.”
But Trimble obviously saw something in this dog. So he brought him back to America and began working with him. Strongheart, as he became, starred in several films and was eventually paired with a mate, Lady Jule, who even appeared on film with him. The pair sired several pups, some of which also starred on the big screen. Strongheart was the first “police dog” in the movies.
Stronheart’s films include The Silent Call (1921), Brawn of the North (1922), The Love Master (1924), White Fang (1925), North Star (1925) and The Return of Boston Blackie (1927).
Trimble once said about an animal’s nature, “When you are with an animal, never be surprised when he does what you ask, even when you ask the first time. Always expect the impossible to happen. This will help you more than it does the animal. If there is no response, that is always a sign that you need more education yourself. Not the animal.”
Strongheart died at the age of 13 on June 24, 1929, after developing a tumour from falling against a hot studio light while acting out a fight scene during the filming of The Return of Boston Blockie. (Chadwick 1927).
… and that is why Strongheart.
Here’s a little more about Strongheart that I have taken from the book Strongheart The Story of a Wonder Dog written by Lawrence Trimble and published in 1926 (this book comes up on eBay every now and again) –
There was no intention on my part to make Strongheart a great actor in his first screen production. I wanted to prepare him for playing a natural role. Hal G. Everts had written a story which he called “The Cross Pull” and Miss Murfin had made a splendid adaption of it for the screen, and the dog in it had to be just dog. It had to be a good dog actor, and when Strongheart had gotten to the point of being good, his first production “The Silent Call” was started.
A suitable play for his next picture was not to be had. His first had been a portrayal of dog emotions. The next step would be the reflection of human emotions, accordingly I wrote the story, which Miss Murfin adapted for the screen and was released under the title of “Brawn of the North.”
Jack London’s great novel “White Fang” has a role for a dog which makes the demand upon him as heavy as any role has made on a human actor. On the completion of “Brawn of the North” we brought the screen rights to this story and were planning it for his third production. But the public changed this plan and we made “The Love Master” in its place. In writing this story my object was to give him a role more difficult than that he had played in “Brawn of the North” and yet not one that would tax him as greatly as that of the title role in “White Fang.”
To have seen “White Fang,” which is his fourth production, will be to understand why it was not his third picture when I say that the dog fight could not have been staged if Strongheart had not had the experience of “The Love Master.” No real dog will take a licking from another dog until he is physically incapable of making another struggle. In “White Fang” Strongheart had to take a licking from a bull dog. Deep in his heart Strongheart believes that he can whip any dog that ever walked on four legs or less. Before “The Love Master” it had not even been considered possible for him to take a whipping from a bull dog such as Jack London had called upon his hero to take in “White Fang.” The production would have been a great one with the fight omitted, but the public by means of letters, clearly showed that they would not be satisfied with any evasion on Strongheart’s part in future productions.
“The Love Master” gave him the opportunity of getting acquainted with a great many different animals, and when it was finished he had reached the point where he could restrain himself so that he could take a licking from a bull dog. Then “White Fang” was made and I believe this picture marks the reaching by Strongheart of the pinnacle of acting ability.