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About Lassie Lassie was an enormously popular television series that follows the adventures of a female Rough Collie named Lassie and her companions, human and animal. The show was the creation of producer Robert Maxwell and animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax and was televised from September 12, 1954, to March 24, 1973. One of the longest running dramatic series on television, the show chalked up seventeen seasons on CBS before entering first-run syndication for its final two seasons. Initially filmed in black and white, the show transitioned to colour during 1965.

The show's first ten seasons follow Lassie's adventures in a small farming community. Fictional eleven-year-old Jeff Miller, his mother, and his grandfather are Lassie's first human companions until seven-year-old Timmy Martin and his adoptive parents take over in the fourth season. When Lassie's exploits on the farm end in the eleventh season, she finds new adventures in the wilderness with a succession of United States Forestry Service workers. After traveling without human leads for a year, Lassie finally settles at a children's home for her final two syndicated seasons.

Lassie received critical acclaim upon its debut and won two Emmy Awards in its first years. Stars Jan Clayton and June Lockhart were nominated for Emmys. Merchandise produced during the show's run included books, a Halloween costume, clothing, toys, and other items. Campbell's Soup, the show's life-long sponsor, offered two premiums (a ring and a wallet), and distributed thousands to fans. A multi-part episode was edited into the feature film, Lassie's Great Adventure

Broadway star and quiz show panelist Jan Clayton was hired to play farm widow Ellen Miller with septuagenarian George Cleveland playing her father-in-law, George "Gramps" Miller. Child actor Tommy Rettig was hired to portray Ellen’s eleven-year-old son Jeff Miller,[14][note 2] and Donald Keeler (the professional name used at the time by Joey D. Vieira) was cast as Jeff's friend, Sylvester "Porky" Brockway. Porky's basset hound Pokey became a recurring animal character through the first several seasons.[15]

In 1957, Clayton and Rettig wanted to leave the show. Producers decided to find a new boy and ease the Miller family out of the show.[7] Two hundred boys were interviewed, and six-year-old film veteran Jon Provost was hired and made his début as Timmy in the fourth season opener, "The Runaway."[17] In July 1957, George Cleveland died unexpectedly, and producers were forced to overhaul the show.[7] The plot was extensively reworked and Clayton and Rettig were dropped. Cloris Leachman and Jon Shepodd were quickly hired as Timmy’s adoptive parents Ruth and Paul Martin.

As fourth season shooting progressed, Leachman grew unhappy playing a tired farm woman, feuded on-set with co-workers, and proved unpopular with viewers. Ratings dropped. When filming was completed for the 1957–58 season in February 1958, Wrather severed ties with producer Maxwell and dropped Leachman and Shepodd.[19] Film veteran June Lockhart and Broadway stage star Hugh Reilly replaced the two at the top of the fifth season.[20] George Chandler was hired to play Petrie Martin, Paul's uncle, but was later dropped.[21] Todd Ferrell played Timmy's friend Ralph "Boomer" Bates with his dog Mike a recurring character but both were dropped in 1958.

Former Keystone Kop Andy Clyde, also a co-star of The Real McCoys, became a regular in 1958 as neighbor Cully Wilson

It should be noted the real hero behind the success of Lassie was dog trainer Rudd Weatherwax. Having trained several Lassie clone collies, Rudd worked relentlessly on the dog's camera presence as well as rescue training to make it all seem real. None of the collies were ever subjected to actual danger or injured in the production of any Lassie episodes.



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