Lassie, a Rough Collie, is "the world's most famous dog" and a fictional character who has starred in many movies, TV shows, and books over the years.

The character of Lassie was created by British-American author Eric Knight in Lassie Come-Home, published as a short story in the Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and as a novel in 1940. In Knight's story, a young Yorkshire boy owns an exceptionally beautiful and loyal collie, but when the family faces severe economic hardship, the dog is sold to a wealthy nobleman. Both boy and dog grieve over the separation, made worse when the new owner transports Lassie hundreds of miles away to his estate in Scotland. However, the collie's instinct and courage cause her to escape, and the book follows Lassie's efforts to return to the boy she loves.

In 1943 the book was made into what would become the first Lassie movie, also titled Lassie Come Home (no hyphen), which generally followed the plot of the book. Roddy McDowall starred. Since then, there have been numerous sequels, televison series and spin-offs.

The dog was so popular that it is one of only three dogs awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the others being Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart.

On the 1954-1974 television series Lassie, she had a series of owners, the first two being Jeff (Tommy Rettig) (reruns of this era were later syndicated as Jeff's Collie) and Timmy (Jon Provost). Both were farm boys frequently helped out of scrapes by their super-intelligent dog. June Lockhart, who had previously appeared in Son of Lassie, took over the role of Timmy's mother from Cloris Leachman. Ranger Corey came later and, near the end of the series, Lassie struck out on her own, with no regular human master.

The first dog to play the role of Lassie was Pal, owned by animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax and his brother Frank Weatherwax. Before Pal's death, he was bred with a number of bitches, resulting in hundreds of offspring, several of which have performed under the name Lassie. Most have been male, because their coats are usually fuller and more impressive than for the bitches. Because the males tend to be larger, they are considered more physically suitable to perform many of Lassie's stunts. As is usually the case with canine film stars, several uncredited doubles have been employed in the films and TV shows. Director-screenwriter Charles Sturridge has been attached to a film based on Knight's novel, planned for a 2006 release. Rudd Weatherwax died in 1985, and his son, Bob Weatherwax, has been handling the Lassie star collies in the years since then.

Currently, the "official" Lassie is used mainly for "celebrity appearances" at dog shows. The Lassie theme song, "Whistle," was written by Les Baxter.



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