Rebel with four paws: the story of Pal

In some cases, stars aren’t born—they’re made, and the training can be quite difficult indeed. Such was the case with Pal, a male Rough Collie born in 1940 who was judged lower-quality thanks to his big eyes and white forehead. Rudd Weatherwax, an animal trainer and later Pal’s agent, began working with him at the age of 8-months, when Pal was going through a period of intense barking and motorcycle-chasing. Although the barking was cured, the chasing remained, and Pal’s then-owner gave him to Weatherwax in disappointment.

Pal was originally rejected for the role, with it being given to a female show collie instead. However, that dog refused to perform during filming in the San Joaquin River. Pal was there to demonstrate his willingness, and impressed the director so much that he had tears in his eyes. The female was released from her contract, and Pal’s career had begun.

After the first film, Pal starred in six more movies for MGM, after which he performed with Weatherwax at dog shows across the nation. In 1954, though, Pal filmed two pilots for television. He retired afterwards, with his son Lassie Jr. taking on the role. However, Tommy Rettig, who played Lassie’s owner in the show, remembers Pal going through the scenes as his son performed, gaining him the respectful name of the Old Man.

Pal died in 1958, but his legacy lived on. His descendants continued to play Lassie roles up through the 1990s, and when non-descended dogs were finally brought in as replacements, fans were outraged. Pal is still remembered as one of the acting greats for his great versatility and his solid work ethic, and his classic films will continue to charm children for many years to come.

Jul 20, 2010 5:43 pm under Actors, you can trackback from your own site