Rin Tin Tin
Died 1932 - Paris, France
"PARIS, FRANCE!?! Goddammit! Are you kidding?"
We know what you're thinking. We think it, too. Famous American movie dog Rin Tin Tin is buried here, in France, not in our country. It is shameful, but we're not here to sugarcoat the truth.
His grave is in a cemetery named "The Cimetire des Chiens (et Autres Animaux Exotiques)," in the suburb of Asnieres, hard by the River Seine. The tombstone for the star of American films such as "Jaws of Steel" and "The Man from Hell's River" is made of fruity black onyx, with a gold-leafed "star of the cinema" inscription.
Rin Tin Tin is credited with saving Warner Brothers from bankruptcy in the 1920s, receiving 2,000 fan letters a week (only 286 a week in dog years). He remained a big star until the talkies did him in. He died at age 16. And he was buried in Paris, France.
It's understandable that American malcontents with eating disorders -- like Jim Morrison and Jean Seaburg -- might end up buried in France. But why Rinty? Well, Rin-Tin-Tin was a shell-shocked pup found in the French trenches during World War I (which France needed our help to win). His savior, a US doughboy named Lee Duncan, took Rin-Tin-Tin back to the States, where the dog found fame and fortune. France took Rin-Tin-Tin back after he was dead.
The Cimetie're Des Chiens has pleaded poverty for over a decade, and they're always making noises about closing. The threat is always the same. If we don't get enough money, they say, we'll have to close, and no one will get to visit Rin Tin Tin any more. (What? Aren't there any famous French poodles to give a damn about?) The cemetery doesn't have any money because it doesn't get many tourists, and few Parisians bury their pets there. One day the place will just lock its gates, the French will give that little shrug of their shoulders, and Rin Tin Tin will be lost forever.
It doesn't have to be that way. We can get Rin Tin Tin back. Let's learn from the lesson of American Revolutionary War hero, John Paul Jones. John Paul Jones -- The Father of The Navy -- died broke and forgotten in a cheap Paris hotel in 1792. One of Jones' drinking buddies realized that America might one day want the body back, so he had Jones placed in a heavy lead coffin, completely filled it with whisky, and then sealed it tight. Jones was buried on the outskirts of Paris in a small cemetery.
In 1899, the American ambassador to France decided to get Jones back. After five years of searching he found the body -- still identifiable after all those years. However, the cemetery had been ABANDONED and built over. We had to excavate under shops to get John Paul Jones back.
In 1905, a squadron of US warships escorted John Paul Jones home, where he is now properly interred -- in a vaulted crypt supported by dolphins -- beneath the dome of the Naval Academy's chapel in Annapolis, MD. Marines stand guard in front of the marble tomb, especially wary of visitors in berets.
That's what we should do for Rin-Tin-Tin. If that French cemetery needs money, how much would it take, really, to get them to cough up our beloved canine star?
"Otherwise, what?" we hear from those who don't want to get involved. Perhaps you should know what happened to John Paul Jones' nephritic kidney, which was inadvertently left behind in France. When US officials sought to retrieve the kidney, they were horrified to learn that the famed sea fighter's diseased organ had been inadvertently THROWN OUT by a janitor.
[Note: Some of the dogs who played Rin Tin Tin on television in the 1950s were Rinty's own American-born descendants, and they are buried in Los Angeles, at the home of Lee Duncan. Rin Tin Tin's bloodline carries on at a Houston, TX, kennel, where a litter of 8-11 selectively bred trademarked pups are born every year. The majority find careers as service dogs for disabled children, and several have done search and rescue and police work...]
Daphne Hereford, owner of Rin Tin Tin, the lineage and trademarks, takes issue with our Rinty Rant:
"As a gesture of honor, Lee Duncan had the body of the original Rin Tin Tin moved to the Paris cemetery as France was his country of birth (the dogs, not Duncan's). Our representative has visited the cemetery, furnished us photos and has personally spoken to the caretaker. There is NO Danger of the cemetery going bankrupt and the original Rin Tin Tin is actually revered there." [3/12/00]