Posts Tagged ‘Benji’
PATSY AWARD WINNERS 1960. Including Asta, the wire-haired fox terrier from the television adaptation of The Thin Man
From Time Magazine in 1968:
All the big names were there. Smoky, the drunken horse from Cat Ballou, Old Fooler, star of The Rounders, and currently seen under Burt Lancaster in The Scalphunters. Mr. Ed and Fury, once title horses in TV series bearing their names. Syn Cat, the cat who was That Darn Cat. Cousin Bessie, the chimp from The Beverly Hillbillies. Bruce, who was the ocelot in Honey West. Rhubarb, who gave that never-to-be-forgotten performance as the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And all the young stars of tomorrow: Willie the bear, soon to make his debut in a new TV series, The Land of Giants; Squirt, the handsome young cheetah, now co-starring in Sweet Charity with Shirley Mac-Laine; Tullia, a brand-new cat star at Universal; Rott, the dog who made a name for himself in The Flying Nun; Scruffy, another dog certainly destined for stardom next fall on NBC’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.The list goes on-60, all told. And all of them gathered last week on the grass at Universal City Studios for the 18th annual Patsy Awards.
Scruffy the wire-haired fox terrier in clips from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
ASTA in The Thin Man
- The wire-haired terrier scene-stealer from The Thin Man (1934) and the first sequel, After the Thin Man (1936) belonged to a special effects technican at MGM and went by the name of Skippy.
- Skippy was trained by MGM property master Henry East who would not allow the film’s stars, Myrna Loy and William Powell, to play with the dog offscreen for fear it would ruin his concentration on camera.
- Skippy also made a memorable appearance as George, the trouble causing dog in Bringing Up Baby, alongside Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.
- Compared to other canine actors in Hollywood that earned $3.50 a day, Skippy was the top breadwinner with a weekly salary of $250.00.
- – Henry East was joined by fellow trainers Rudd Weatherwax and Frank Inn in working with other Astas besides Skippy in the additional Thin Man features such as The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) and Song of the Thin Man (1947).
From Turner Classic Movies website
- Benji was a mixed breed dog (part schnauzer, part cocker spaniel, part poodle) who was found by trainer Frank Inn at the Burbank Animal Shelter in the early sixties.
- Benji’s real name was Higgins and he first appeared on the TV series “Petticoat Junction” in 1963 as the Bradley family’s pet.
- Higgins was almost 14 years old when “Petticoat Junction” went off the air in 1970 and his trainer decided it was time for him to retire. However, independent filmmaker Joe Camp visited Frank Inn at his dog training center, saw Higgins, and became convinced he would be ideal as the star of his new animal film, Benji (1974).
- Higgins was too old to star in the 1977 sequel, For the Love of Benji so his daughter Benjean was cast in the title role instead.
- Higgins won a PATSY Award for his work in “Petticoat Junction” in 1966 and was, at the time, the only other dog honoree besides Lassie.
From Turner Classic Movies Website
He was named for Tintin’s fox terrier by an eight year old girl who was just starting to read Herge’s adventures. Her eyes lit up when she saw him for the first time, as if he’d jumped out of the pages of her comic book. He’d been rescued in Hollywood running across a busy main road, dodging traffic. He then found a true and happy lifelong home with a dancer and an artist.
He was quite a dancer and artist himself. The first time he met the dancer he stood on his hind legs and performed a perfect pirouette. He performed with the Tiger Lillies, upstaging them with an inspired improvised comic gesture that brought the house down. They say he was more professional than them. He was well-travelled and when he wasn’t going off into the world for adventures the world came to him: bones from steak frittes in Paris were brought back to Los Angeles for him.
He was smart. When he was first rescued he lived in a house with three big dogs, and a labrador who was a day-dog there. He thought rings round all of them. When his bed was taken apart after he moved to his new home it was found to be full of big dog biscuits he’d taken from the big dogs.
Snowy’s life was cut short yesterday by a devestating form of cancer. He was nine years old.
Snowy was a cocktail, some poodle, some terrier, all the smart and sweet characteristics of whatever breeds he was made up of. His phenomenal ability to learn new tricks, and to enjoy performing them for a crowd, reminded me of Higgins, a terrier mix known to the movie world as Benji, who also appeared in Petticoat Junction, Greenacres and the Beverly Hillbillies. He was ”marked like a Border Terrier and Frank Inn, his trainer, believed him to be a mix of Miniature Poodle, Cocker Spaniel, and Schnauzer,” says his Wikipedia entry.
“Higgins had an extraordinary ability to convey a broad range of emotions through his facial expressions. Frank Inn, who trained thousands of animals of all species during his lifetime, told reporters that Higgins was the smartest dog he had ever worked with, and noted that during his prime years in television, he learned one new trick or routine per week, and that he retained these routines from year to year, making it possible for him to take on increasingly varied and complex roles. Higgins’s special tricks included climbing ladders, opening a mailbox and removing a letter, yawning, and sneezing on cue.”
Some of the best terrier stars started out as abandoned dogs. Higgins was rescued from the Burbank animal shelter. Moose, the Jack Russell who portrayed Eddie on on Frasier, was a wild puppy, and given away by his original owners.
Moose was born on Christmas Eve, 1990 in Florida, United States, the youngest littermate. He was the largest puppy in the litter. Like Pal, the original Lassie, the obstreperous puppy was too much for his original owner. According to an article by Lori Golden:
” In fact, chasing cats was one of the activities that led to this troubled terrier becoming one of TV’s most precious pooches. Originally owned by a Florida family, Moose was too hard to handle. He couldn’t be house trained; he chewed everything; he dug and barked a lot; and he was constantly escaping and climbing trees. Eventually given to the Florida manager of Birds and Animals Unlimited, a company that trains animals for TV and motion pictures, Moose was put on a plane at 2½ years old and sent to Mathilde DeCagny, an LA trainer working for the show-biz animal company. “
DeCagny has been quoted as saying that Moose was very highly trainable and won the role on Frasier after only six months of training. Moose had the ability to fix Kelsey Grammer with a long hard stare; this became a running sight gag on the show.