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Tag: hollywood

When dogs ruled the Hollywood shorts

Portraying dogs as humans — a topic we’ve brought up a few times, usually with a sneer — is as ensconced in Hollywood tradition as it has now become on Facebook.

Dogs talking in movies, in fact, is as nearly old as talkies themselves. In the Early Sound Era, trained dogs (aka as cheap labor) were commonly called on to appear in movies, particular movie shorts that were shown before the feature presentation in movie houses.

Of those, one series in the pack stood out: the “All-Barkie” Dogville Comedies, including “Hot Dog” (above).

From 1929 to 1931, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a series of nine short comedy films, sometimes known as the “barkies.”

The actors in these films, directed by Zion Myers and conceived and co-directed by Jules White (who both later gained fame for The Three Stooges comedies), were trained dogs, usually dressed in human attire, whose voices were dubbed by human actors.

Their aim, most often, was laughs. They commonly mocked the often naughty and haughty behavior of the noble class — and spoofed the era’s movies, as well.

But as you’ll see here today, some of them had a pretty dark side.

The series is somewhat controversial today — and was even then — due to suspected methods alleged to have been used to get the dogs to pose and to appear to talk, and they stopped being made after criticism over a scene in the final one, portraying canine cannibalism.

Of course “talking dogs” were nothing new by the 1930s. Talking movies were, though, and dogs pretty much worked for free.

The films were shot with silent film and dubbed over with human speech, often using the voices of White and Myers, as well as other actors.

The Dogville shorts started with 1929’s “College Hounds”, a parody of Buster Keaton’s “College” that features a huge doggie football game. The next film was “Hot Dog,” about a murder in a seedy cabaret after a jealous husband finds out his wife has been cheating on him.

After that came “Who Killed Rover?” and a Broadway parody called “The Dogway Melody.”

Those were followed by “The Big Dog House,” “All’s Canine on the Western Front,” and “Love Tails of Morocco.”

A nationwide theatre owners poll in 1930 rated the Dogvilles as the best short subjects over more legendary comedy and musical series, according to article published last year by Atlas Obscura

Many of the dogs were supplied by renowned Hollywood animal trainer Rennie Renfro, who was present for the making of the films.

To make the canine performers appear as if they were speaking, a director or Renfro himself would stand in front of a dog and wave various lures to focus the canine’s attention. The human would then open his hand repeatedly to entice the dog to open its mouth. Other times, they gave the dogs toffee to make them chomp.

A January 1931 article in Popular Science Monthly says the directors preferred using stray and mixed-breed dogs “because they are not high strung and can get along better in groups than the animal ‘prima donnas’ of breeding.”

Based on trade papers of the time, the Dogville Comedies were well-received and director White would call the series the favorite project of his career.

But not everyone was tickled and charmed by the “Barkies.”

There are some accounts that piano wire was used to help the dogs remain upright — as if they were part dog, part marionette.

The Performing and Captive Animals’ Defense League wrote to the British Board of Film Censors to protest the release of the movies and several films in the series were banned by British censors.

The creators stopped making the Dogville Comedies in 1931 after the controversial “Trader Hound,” a spoof of the movie, “Trader Horn.” The short was banned by U.K. censors for its hints at cannibalism — albeit dogs eating dogs, as opposed to humans eating humans

In retrospect, some see the short films — just as some see The Three Stooges — as having a mean edge. On one hand, they seem aimed at children; on the other, the plots were often mature, featuring adultery and murder.

Throw in the animal welfare concerns, and the fact that humanizing dogs doesn’t do anyone any good, and they can be looked at — by me anyway — as a less than glorious chapter of Hollywood history.

The complete series of Dogville Comedies has been released on DVD by Warner Bros. as part of its Warner Archive Collection.

Tongue-dropping: Carrie Fisher (and her dog Gary) wake up Good Morning America

This may be the most entertaining bit of morning “news” show television I’ve seen in a long time.

I’d like to give all the credit to Gary, Carrie Fisher’s French bulldog, whose droopy-tongued, deadpan facade nearly steals the show.

But Fisher, on the show last week to promote the new Star Wars film, deserves some, too.

She’s absolutely hilarious.

Even easy-on-the-eyes Good Morning America anchor Amy Robach (sorry, but it’s a relevant point in this case) is tolerable, taking it in stride as Fisher chides her for being so young, thin and beautiful.

As Gary sat in a chair next to Fisher and watched — his tongue hanging out for the entire interview — the actress explained she leaped at the chance to recreate Princess Leia (now General Leia) in the new Star Wars film (The Force Awakens).

Then again, she added, actresses of her generation generally do jump when a role with some substance comes along.

“I’m a female in Hollywood over the age of let’s say 40 … or then we could also say 50 … You don’t have to be asked if you want to work at that age,” she told Robach. “You’ll see someday.”

“I’m over the age of 40,” Robach responded. “I hear ya.” Robach (and don’t we all want some of what she’s drinking?) is 42.

After viewing a snippet from her screen test with Harrison Ford for the original film, Fisher admitted she doesn’t like watching herself on the screen so much these days — but said that she has no problem viewing younger versions of herself.

“No, that’s ok, I’m 19, why wouldn’t I like that? You like it less as you roll along. I can’t say that to you, but people who are normal, who have other genes, they don’t like it as much … Not that you have an advantage with the DNA jackpot or anything.”

It wasn’t your typical star on TV promoting a new movie — but then again, just as Gary isn’t just a dog, Fisher’s not just a movie star.

She’s an author and screenwriter, and has been outspoken about her past drug problems and her mental health issues. In fact, she is pretty outspoken about everything. “I think in my mouth, so I don’t lie,” she told Robach.

Fisher joked that she brought Gary along because his tongue matched her sweater, and because he had screened the movie.

“The tongue wasn’t out of his mouth before he saw the movie … It will happen to everyone,” she said. “It’s worth it though. That’s how good it is. You won’t care that your tongue is out of your mouth like that.”

Gary, in addition to being her beloved pet, is actually a therapy dog who helps Fisher cope with her bipolar disorder.

You can keep up with him on Fisher’s Twitter page.

Roadside Encounter: James Dean

Name: James Dean

Breed: Brooding rebel

Age: 24 at the time of his death. Were he alive today, he’d be 79

Encountered: The James Dean sign is at Blackwell’s Corner, a gas station, nut dealer and memorabilia shop in Lost Hills, California that bills itself as “James Dean’s last stop.”

Backstory: An icon of 1950s Hollywood, Dean was killed in a head-on collision in 1955 — the same year the movie version of John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” came out, in which Dean had a starring role. Steinbeck reportedly didn’t like Dean personally, but thought he was perfect for the role of Cal Trask.

After the movie’s release, Dean was driving his Porsche to Salinas for a car race. About 20 minutes after he gassed up at Blackwell’s Corner, an oncoming car struck his vehicle. He would posthumously receive an Academy Award nomination for best actor.

Today, Blackwell’s Corner specializes in pistachios and almonds, and also sells 1950s memorabilia. It offers a free pack of James Dean trading cards with a purchase of $75 or more.

Beethoven is favorite movie dog, poll says

Too bad, Toto. Tough break, Scooby Doo. Boo hoo, Beverly Hills Chihuahua. None of you made the top five in a recent poll to determine the public’s favorite movie dog.

Neither did Marley, Benji, White Fang, Hachiko, Snoopy, Lady, Tramp or Air Bud.

With the debut of “Marmaduke” last week, MovieTickets.com polled moviegoers to see which doggy superstar reigns supreme — and no, Marmaduke didn’t make the list, either.

Beethoven was tapped as Hollywood’s top dog with 28 percent of the vote, while Old Yeller came in a close second with 24 percent. Also in the top five were Hooch, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin.

In case you’ve never visited, ohmidog! offers a fine selection of dog movies in our Amazon affiliate store.

We’ve got one for dog books, too.

The boost that dogs can provide a community

stlouisDowntown St. Louis has joined the growing list of cities and neighborhoods that are catching on to the fact that dogs can improve a community’s health — both socially and economically.

The city held a ribbon-cutting for its new Lucas Park Dog Park Saturday — a $125,000 project that created a three-quarter-block long area where dogs can run unfettered.

It was a small and little-noted event, but it’s another sign of the growing awareness — reflected recently in Frederick, Maryland; Santa Cruz, California; and Hollywood, Florida — that being more dog friendly can increase an area’s appeal to humans, both as a place to live and a place to visit.

And that, city, business and neighborhood leaders are realizing, can help a community trying to pull itself out of recession-related doldrums.

For downtowners in St. Louis, “the renaissance of their neighborhood arrived on four legs,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

On top of being good for business, becoming more dog friendly — and creating areas where dogs and their owners can congregate — can also help lead to a stronger sense of community.

“We may not know all of our neighbors,” said Todd Wise, a radio producer who moved downtown with his wife and Delilah, a basset hound, 18 months ago. “But we know the owners by their dogs.”

“The idea is get people out of their apartments, said downtown-dwelling law student Sarah Hunt, owner of Roxie, an 8-month-old beagle-pug mix. “…When you get people out of their apartments, things happen.”

(Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch /Elle Gardner)

Hooray for Hollywood (Florida, that is)

 

City officials in Hollywood (the one in Florida) are considering overturning a ban on dogs along the city’s oceanside Broadwalk (that’s not a typo, that’s what they call it).

Under a proposal from Commissioner Patty Asseff, dogs could be allowed to walk on the two-mile-long promenade — and even eat in beachside cafes.

What’s behind the possible change in policy? Clue: It starts with M and ends with Y. Some city officials see it as a way to bring more business to the shops and restaurants by the sea, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Three years ago, the city experimented with allowing dogs on the beach between Pershing and Custer streets during certain hours for a few hours a day. The experiment was such a success that it became permanent. As for the Broadwalk, though, dogs — unlike bicycles, roller skaters and rollerbladers — are banned.

Asseff announced her Broadwalk proposal at a town hall meeting last month as a way to compete with other cities that already allow dogs on the beach and to dine at beachside restaurants. The proposal is scheduled to be discussed at the April 21st city commission meeting.

Don’t hit the Broadwalk just yet, though. A $50 fine for strolling down the promenade with your dog is still in effect.

CinnaBun runs away, and Bullock, too

cinny2Little more than a week after she was on top of the world, Sandra Bullock has reportedly left the residence she shares with Jesse James, and reports are that James’ dog CinnaBun has gone missing again, too.

HomeAgain, a company that monitors microchips in pets, tolds TMZ that a report was filed March 15 with the company that CinnaBun had turned up missing.

HomeAgain sent emails yesterday to residents in the Long Beach area — in the vicinity of West Coast Choppers, where James kept CinnaBun.

“I am asking for your help in finding my lost dog, CinnaBun,” the emails read. 

CinnaBun, a pit bull, went missing at the end of January and wasn’t found for nearly a month.

Sandra-BullockMeanwhile, James has broken his silence on reports that he cheated on his Oscar-winning wife, telling People magazine he used “poor judgment”.

James, a custom motorcycle manufacturer who married Bullock five years ago, said he took responsibility for his actions. But he stopped short of admitting that he had an affair.

Bullock, 45, pulled out of the London premiere of  “The Blind Side” on Wednesday after the celebrity magazine In Touch Weekly published claims by a model that she slept with James last year.

“It’s because of my poor judgment that I deserve everything bad that is coming my way,” James said in a statement to People.

Bullock, who received the Oscar for best actress last week for her work in the  “The Blind Side,” has reportedly moved out of the home she shared with James.

(An update to this story can be found here.)