The world’s first dog movie star was a Collie named Blair. Owned and trained by English producer, director, and writer Cecil Hepworth, he was, in fact, the first British movie star of any species. Such a concept was still in its infancy in the early 1900s. And, like Rin-Tin-Tin in 1923 for Warner Bros., Blair helped to establish Hepworth and Co. with the massive commercial success of the first film in which he starred, Rescued by Rover (1905).
Cecil Hepworth was one of the best-known and most prolific early British film-makers, producing so many short films through his company, as many as three per week, during Blair’s lifetime (he died in 1914) that it is likely Blair appeared in dozens of movies. We may never know how many, or which ones, however. In 1924, when Hepworth had to sell his studio below value, most of his hundreds of original negatives were melted down to recover the silver in them. Nearly all of Blairs films have now been lost.
We do know a handful of this pioneering Collie’s filmography, and have the pleasure today of being able to see Rescued by Rover due to its being preserved and now being in the public domain. Even in this case though, it is not the original. Rescued by Rover was such a phenomenal hit across Great Britain and beyond, the first negative wore out and the film had to be reshot twice.
Blair is singularly easy to spot in the few films of his which do survive today. Note the diamond mark on his forehead and the distinct white ruff on the left side, and sable on the right.
✯ Known Blair Filmography ✯
If you know more films which definitely featured Blair, please let me know!
- Alice in Wonderland (1903) – Possibly Blair’s first film. He can only be seen for an instant.
- Rescued by Rover (1905) – The film that launched not only Blair’s career, but the whole concept of a dog movie.
- Rover Takes a Call (1905) – A curtain call short shown after Rescued by Rover.
- Dumb Sagacity (1907) – In which Blair co-starred with the horse who played Black Beauty in 1906. (Note “dumb” still meant mute at that time, not necessarily stupid.)
- The Dog Outwits the Kidnapper (1908) – Similar to Rescued by Rover, but now “Rover” drives the kidnapped girl back home himself. This is one of Blair’s only surviving shorts.
- The Dog Thief (1908)
- The Dog and the Bone (1909)
- The Dog Came Back (1909)
- The Shepherd’s Dog (1909) – Rover leads the shepherd to save his daughter from the snow.
- The Detective’s Dog (1910)
- The Dog Chaperone (1910) – A man must win over the dog before the woman.
- Love Me, Love My Dog (1910)
- The Dog’s Devotion (1911) – Blair saves a marriage.
- Rover the Peacemaker (1911)
- Lost in the Woods (1912) – Blair leads lost children home.