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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Death 24 June 1929Los Angeles, California, USA  (burns suffered while filming)
Birth NameEtzel von Oeringen

Mini Bio (1)

Strongheart, the German shepherd who was a canine superstar of American cinema, was born and raised in Imperial Germany, where he was trained to be a police dog and assigned to the German military during World War I. Called "Etzel von Oringer," the German shepherd was born on October 1, 1917, descended from a carefully bred line. Trained as an attack dog, the 125-pound (57 kilograms) Strongheart was fearless. American director Laurence Trimble, who was famous as an animal trainer, and his wife, Jane Murfin, a screenwriter, had been searching Europe for a dog that could appear in motion pictures. When Trimble came across the three-year-old Strongheart in 1920, he knew he had the makings of a canine star.

The major problem Trimble faced was that, trained as a police dog, Strongheart had not socialized much with human beings. Back in Hollywood, it took Trimble months to train the dog in order to de-emphasize his harsh police dog-style training. Trimble had the dog by his side virtually non-stop for months, continually rewarding him for good behavior. Eventually, Strongheart's prior police habits were broken as his Libra personality came to the fore, and he was turned into a magnificently trained animal. However, certain aspects of his flat-footed past remained with him: Blessed with great instincts, particularly regarding the moral character of strangers, the dog would track people of dubious morality.

There were many canine stars of silent movies, including Teddy, the Great Dane who co-starred with a young Gloria Swanson, the collie Jean at Vitagraph, and the English pit bull Luke. In the 1920's, a group of German shepherd dogs romped on-screen and became stars, with Strongheart and `Rin Tin Tin' the most prominent among them.

His first movie, "The Silent Call" (1921), bore Trimble's expectations out, making Strongheart a star, beloved by movie-goers of all ages. Strongheart was given the star treatment, traveling by train to make personal appearances, at which he was greeted by crowds of adoring fans. He was written up in newspapers and magazines, and even the radio proclaimed "Strongheart" a star. A dog food named after him became popular and is still being produced over three-quarters of a century later. In the ultimate accolade, J. Allen Boone wrote two books about the shepherd, "Letters to Strongheart" and "Kinship with All Life."

Strongheart appeared in "Brawn of the North" (1922), "The Love Master" (1924), "White Fang" (1925), "North Star" (1925) and "The Return of Boston Blackie" (1927). Love came his way when he was paired with Lady Jule, a female German Shepherd who co-starred with him. The happy canine couple produced many litters, including offspring who would sire pups who grew up to be movie stars themselves.

The Trimbles placed a plaque over Strongheart's bed that contained a quote from the Book of Job: "Ask the very beasts, and they will teach you."

Tragedy struck down Strongheart at the height of his career, when he slipped and was burned by a studio light. The burn rapidly turned into a tumor and claimed Strongheart's life on or around June 24, 1929.

Strongheart's grandson "Lightning" was a canine movie star in the the 1930's, appearing in "A Dog of Flanders," "Wings in the Dark," and "When Lightning Strikes." Another grandson, "Silver King," also appeared in the movies and made personal appearances as part of a safety program for children.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Trivia (9)

A plaque kept over his bed quoted the Bible's book of Job: "Ask the very beasts, and they will teach you."
Trained as a WWI police dog in Germany, he was brought to the U.S. by director Laurence Trimble and his wife, writer Jane Murfin.
The first canine star in motion pictures, he was a magnificent German Shepherd dog.
Owner Laurence Trimble worked tirelessly to overcome the dog's harsh military-style prior training, staying with the dog virtually non-stop for several months and emphasizing rewards for positive behavior.
He had an astonishing level of instinct regarding the character of strangers, both good and bad; he would often suddenly pursue passersby who long after were found to have been embezzlers, frauds or spousal abusers.
Earned six service stripes in the German Red Cross.
Injured by shrapnel after the second battle of Ypres.
Strongheart ate ten pounds of meat daily while working; two pounds if loafing.
Was never able to howl. His brother Flash doubled for him in scenes that required howling.

Personal Quotes (1)

Trainer Laurence Trimble: "His human counterparts on screen were pleased with Strongheart, for even though he tore their clothes to shreds, he never left a mark of fang or nail on any actor."

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