I think we can all agree there’s nothing cuter than a fluffy little doggy doing its doggy thing in movies/TV, and that there’s nothing uglier than the foul stench of racism in which we judge human beings by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. But what if those very doggies were very racist? So, we did some digging and you’ll never believe the bigoted bones buried deep in pop culture’s backyard.
1.) Pal, best known as Lassie from Lassie
Lassie, everybody’s favorite iconic Hollywood canine, was the paragon of courage and loyalty onscreen. It’ll surprise no one that even though Lassie’s a bitch in her many adventures that she was originally portrayed by the male, Pal (b. June 4th, 1940-d. June 18th, 1958). Few people know the reason is that the coats of male Rough Collies are thicker and shinier, and therefore register better on camera. What even fewer people may know is that it turns out Pal was a bit of bitch behind the scenes, as well. And we mean the other kind. When it came time to cast the boy lead “Jeff Miller,” in the Lassie pilot, Pal had final say. After a rigorous week of chemistry tests with the final three children, Pal selected the aesthetically Aryan actor Tommy Rettig. The other options? Recent immigrants Menahem Feldstein and Fyuvsh Gruskoff, who, according to unnamed sources, later abandoned the entertainment industry, altogether, due to the aggressive behavior (barking, biting, anti-Semitic rhetoric, etc.) of that Nazi diva, Pal. A shinier coat a better dog does not make.
2.) Terry, best known as Toto from The Wizard of Oz
“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”
According to the American Film Institute that’s the 99th (out of 100) most memorable line in film history. Period. It was spoken to Terry (and to lesser extent Judy Garland), who’s most recognizable to movie buffs as Toto in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. For that role, she was paid the astronomical sum of $125 a week, which was more than even some humans working on the picture! That was by design. Allegedly, during contract negotiations, Terry, communicating through a series of grunts and growls, indicated she must make, at least, $100 more than the highest paid Chinese employee of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Another fringe benefit: Terry was to be kenneled in an undisclosed location on set between setups to minimize the possibility, as Terry woofed it, “being turned into soup.” Terry passed on peacefully six years later with prejudice in her heart.
3.) Pal the Wonder Dog best known as Petey the Pup from Our Gang
Apparently, there was a real shortage of dog name creativity in classic showbiz, as this next hound is also named Pal. It was like Jimmy for late night show hosts, or like Chris for action stars. We only wish this pup was as ingratiating as our beloved Jimmy’s and Chris’s. Born with a faint black ring around his right eye, Pal the Wonder Dog demanded that it be filled in by makeup to create a bolder look; one meant to signify the displeasure of having to work with African-American actors Billie “Buckwheat” Thomas and Matthew “Stymie” Beard. He felt it was a black eye on the otherwise wholesome series about child neglect. Perhaps, it’s best he wasn’t Jimmy the Wonder Dog… SMH
4.) Higgins best known as Benji from Benji
Where do we even start with this mutt? Higgins only made one film, and when you hear what we found out, you’ll be glad. Shot on location in Denton, Texas, which then, as now, has a thriving community of Hispanic-Americans, the film serves as a massive missed opportunity to promote naturally occurring diversity in these United States. And Higgins is solely to blame. The scene with Benji and the “White Dog” (their way of crediting her, not ours) originally had been cast with a local hire, Rosalita, a beautiful, independent, Latina Chihuahua. On the day of the shoot, Higgins refused to do the planned love scenes with Rosalita, no matter how much peanut butter was smeared behind her ears. Subsequently, a sub-plot that included a visit to Rosalita’s owner, a taco stand employee, who moonlit as a law student with an emphasis in immigration to help his family achieve their journey to the “Land of Hope and Dreams,” hit the cutting room floor. The film was retooled to feature a fairer-companion, and, also, kidnappers to supplement the lacking run time. Very bad dog, Higgins!
BONUS RACIST DOG: Uggie best knowns as Jack the Dog from The Artist
The scourge of racism even plagues the modern day cinemaplex. For example, Uggie only starred in movies with white people. Micro-aggression much?
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