Human actors are a completely different thing. We have been blessed by intelligence and so it’s understandable if we ‘pretend’ to be something we are not. But what of animals? How do you train them to act, and act so good? That is something I am quite curious about and I haven’t yet been able to figure out exactly what the trainers go through while prepping the animals for a particular scene. If you talk of animal actors the one animal that comes to my mind is ‘Milo’ from the movie ‘The Mask’ and he wasn’t good enough for this list. This particular article talks about ten animal actors over the period of time that acted so good that it is not even funny. It’s almost unbelievable actually.
10. J FRED MUGGS
This is the only chimpanzee actor on this list. NBC launched ‘The Today Show’ and the ratings were not doing all that well. But then this chimpanzee was introduced as a mascot for the show and that’s when the ratings went up.
This guy was born in 1952 and appeared on ‘The Today Show’ in the year 1953. This chimpanzee happens to be a painter and painted the cover for June 1960 issue of ‘Mad’ magazine. It is uncertain whether this guy is still alive or not. Last heard about his residence was in 2004. We heard he was living in Florida. Fancy, I imagine.
9. BAMBOO HARVESTER
Bamboo Harvester was a star on the television program called ‘Mr. Ed’. He was not credited under his real name in this show. Bamboo was trained by Les Hilton. In the show, you can see the lips moving, while that was achieved by nylon strings in the mouth (to which Bamboo had no complaint), he eventually figured out that when a certain voice stopped he had to move his lips. He learned to do it on his own and the nylon strings were no longer needed and that’s exactly the reason why Molly wasn’t included in this list.
8. HIGHLAND DALE
Highland Dale was an extremely graceful black stallion. He starred in the movie called ‘Black Beauty’ in the year 1946. This horse acted from the 1940s to the 1960s and was trained by Ralph McCutcheon. He could untie knots, play dead and whine on one command. He even starred in the television show, Fury. This beautiful horse passed away in the year 1972.
This was perhaps one of the more amazing movies that I have ever seen. ‘Old Yeller’ was one hell of a movie and the star of the movie is none other than this yellow Labrador, Spike. This guy was rescued from an animal shelter by Frank Weatherwax (Later Frank Inn). Spike also appeared in other movies such as ‘A Dog of Flanders’, ‘The She-Creature’ and ‘The Silent Call’. He appeared on television from time to time as well. Old Yeller, by the way, is a must see.
6. GOLDEN CLOUD
The guy was renamed as ‘Trigger’ after it was purchased by Roy Rogers. But before that happened, Golden Cloud appeared in many movies. Golden Cloud could perform over a hundred different tricks for example, walking on hind legs, acting dead and dancing; all of that on a voice command. Trigger even had his own comic book at one time. After his death, Trigger was stuffed and the body is currently owned by the cable channel ‘Rural Free Delivery Television’. Golden Cloud was housebroken.
You should remember this guy as Toto from ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Terry is a terrier. She worked in many other films including ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Tortilla Flat’. Tortilla Flat was her last movie. She was seldom ever credited under her real name for example, in the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’, she was credited under Toto. Terry’s foot broke while working in that movie. Terry also has an autobiography and you might be able to find it if you look hard enough on Amazon.
Pal worked as a stunt dog in the 1943 movie, Lassie Comes Home. Pal was able to star in seven different movies by MGM. Pal was trained by Rudd Weatherwax. His brother Frank (later Frank Inn) also assisted him. Pal was given the role of ‘Lassie’ in a series that ran from 1954 to 1973. Later that role was passed to Pal’s son. Pal passed away in 1958.
Skippy was trained by Henry and Gale East. They were assisted by Weatherwax brothers and Frank Innn. You would probably know Skippy as Asta in the first two Thin Man Movies. He appeared in many other movies before and after his ‘The Thin Man’ gig. He played Mr. Smith the Dog in ‘The Awful Truth’ and George in ‘Bringing up Baby’. Both were pretty popular roles. Skippy was able to show good acting range. He was able to act afraid and angry on cue.
2. RIN TIN TIN
Rin Tin Tin was brought back from France after the war ended and was trained to do tricks by Lee Duncan. This dog initially played wolf in different movies. But the 1920s and 1930s were the biggest movie years for Rin Tin Tin. His movies earned big bucks for the Warner Brothers. He has played the role of ‘Rinty’ and ‘Scotty’. He even had his own radio program. Sadly though, Rin Tin Tin passed away in 1932. There have been a lot of other Rin Tin Tin’s and that too from the original bloodline. The original Rin Tin Tin has star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
This guy can be compared to Tom Hanks of humans. This is best known for his role in Benji. Higgins was trained by Frank Inn. Frank Inn has trained many other animals who appeared on television. Higgins was the best pupil of Frank Inn. Interestingly enough, this amazing little dog could show many different emotions on cue for example, fear, interest, sadness or even boredom. He could even sneeze and yawn. This guy was also the star of ‘Mooch Goes to Hollowood’. But his best performance has to be Benji because it is the most natural performance a canine could ever give.