CLASH OF THE WOLVES – SLIFF Preview
In the mid-1920’s, Hollywood’s most popular actor was not Charlie Chaplin, not Rudolph Valentino, not Lon Chaney. America was crazy about dogs. Not all dogs – just one in particular: Rin Tin Tin. The German shepherd ruled the box office and was so popular that he is often credited with saving the struggling Warner Brothers Studio from bankruptcy. Rin Tin Tin, at the peak of his career, received 10,000 fan letters a week, was paid a weekly salary of $6,000, and had a personal chef. St. Louis film fans have the rare opportunity to view a vintage silent Rin Tin Tin film on the big screen this Friday night when Cinema St. Louis shows the 1925 silent adventure CLASH OF THE WOLVES with live music accompaniment as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival.
The original Rin Tin Tin starred in 26 films, mostly silent, between 1922 and his death ten years later. The recent book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend is author Susan Orlean’s comprehensive account of the famed German Shepherd’s journey from orphaned puppy to Hollywood superstar and pop culture icon. Orlean, a staff writer at The New Yorker, spent nearly ten years researching and reporting her most captivating book to date: the story of a dog who was born in 1918 and never died. I asked Susan Orlean in the exclusive We Are Movie Geeks interview (read the whole thing HERE) if CLASH OF THE WOLVES was a good example of Rin Tin Tin’s work. She replied “I really love it (CLASH OF THE WOLVES). I think it’s really great. The plot is very coherent. You see Rin Tin Tin doing what made him so popular. Some kind of dramatic, athletic feats, some notable performances with some great acting. It’s a great example of what made him so popular. Plus it’s a restored print so it looks really nice.”
Directed by Noel Mason Smith, CLASH OF THE WOLVES reveals all the qualities that made “Rinty” famous. A forest fire drives a pack of wolves from their mountain habitat, and they must forage for food in the treacherous desert instead. Led by the charismatic half-dog Lobo (named by the mountain rangers who recognized his canine pluck), the pack feeds on cattle, inciting the wrath of the local ranchers. When Lobo injures his paw, he is rescued by the good-natured Dave Weston (Charles Farrell), who is prospecting for borax and wooing May Barstowe (June Marlowe) the daughter of a local businessman. Contrary to the townspeople’s wishes, Dave adopts Lobo as a companion. Lobo rewards Dave’s charity with a multitude of services, defending his master against a rival prospector (Pat Hartigan), repeatedly saving his life while he is stranded in the desert, and even helping Dave win the respect of May’s grumpy father (William Walling). Rin Tin Tin, it seems, is capable of anything.
CLASH OF THE WOLVES will be playing as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival this Friday night with piano accompaniment by pianist and composer Carl Pandolfi. Susan Orlean will introduce the film and discuss and sign the book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, which will be available for purchase through Left Bank Books. The event takes place at Webster University’s Moore Auditorium.