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Lassie's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
Lassie TV Show
The New Lassie TV Show
The New Lassie

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


Lassie is a fictional female collie dog character created by 'Eric Knight' in a short story expanded to novel length called Lassie Come-Home. However, Knight may have been influenced by another female collie named Lassie, featured in the 1859 story "The Half-brothers" written by British writer 'Elizabeth Gaskell'.

Published in 1940, Knight's 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.

According to writer 'Nigel Clarke' in the "Shipwreck Guide to Dorset and South Devon", 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 "Formidable" was torpedoed by a German submarine off Start Point in South Devon, with the loss of more than 500 men. In a storm that followed the accident, a life raft containing bodies was blown along the coast to Lyme Regis. In helping to deal with the crisis, the local pub in Lyme Regis, called the Pilot Boat, offered its cellar as a mortuary.

When the bodies had been laid out on the stone floor, Lassie, a crossbred collie owned by the pub owner, found her way down amongst the bodies, and she began to lick the face of one of the victims, 'Able Seaman John Cowan'. She stayed beside him for more than half an hour, nuzzling him and keeping him warm with her fur. To everyone’s astonishment, Cowan eventually stirred. He was taken to hospital and went on to make a full recovery. He visited Lassie again when he returned to thank all who saved his life.

The sinking of the ship was a severe blow to Britain during these early years of the war. When the officers heard the story of Lassie and what she did to rescue Cowan, they told it again and again to any reporter who would listen as it was inspirational and heart-warming. Hollywood got hold of the story, and so a star was born.

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.

Despite the character Lassie being female, all collies to play Lassie in the television series were male because male collies retain a thicker summer coat than females, which "looks better on television." Also, the male is larger and a child actor can play opposite the dog for longer before outgrowing him.

The first canine actor to play Lassie was 'Pal', who appeared in seven MGM films between 1943 and 1951, and the two pilots filmed for the 1954 television series before he was retired. Pal was handled by 'Frank' and 'Rudd Weatherwax', and 'Frank Inn'.

Eight generations of Pal and his descendants portrayed the beloved collie in more than ten movies and two television series, until the late 1990s. 'Lassie Junior', 'Spook', 'Baby', 'Mire', and 'Hey Hey' played the role of Lassie in the long-running television series.

Hey Hey's son 'Boy' played the collie in the 1978 film The Magic of Lassie, and Boy's son, 'The Old Man', took up the role of Lassie in the 80s series, The New Lassie of the late 1980s and early 1990s. During this time Rudd Weatherwax died and his son 'Robert' became the handler of Lassie.

The 1997 Lassie series featured eighth generation Pal descendant, 'Howard', as the title character in the first season, but midway through the production he was replaced with a non-Pal descended dog due to disputes with the production company. In response to fan outrage, 'Hey Hey II', a ninth-generation direct descendant of Pal, owned by 'Carol Riggins' who was employed by 'Robert Weatherwax', assumed the role for the final thirteen episodes of the show in 1999.

Classic Media acquired the Lassie trademark from the Weatherwax family in 2000, and in 2004 Robert Weatherwax's contract to provide a dog ended, at which time neither side pursued a renewal and Mr. Weatherwax retired from film work and began drawing a SAG pension. In the 2005 Lassie film, shot in the UK, three non-Pal bloodline collies were used in the title role by Gary Gero's Birds and Animals UK corporation.

  • Canine performer.
  • Appears on a 44 USA commemorative postage stamp in the Early TV Memories issue honoring _"Lassie" (1954)_ (qv), issued 11 August 2009.

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