In the mid-1950s, television programming was still in its infancy. Networks were looking to bank on the new medium of at-home entertainment by translating the success of films into folks’ living rooms.
So of course it made sense to bring famous canine Lassie to the small screen in 1954. After a string of hit films starring the brave dog, the series became one of the most beloved television shows in history, with audiences tuning in to her adventures for nearly 20 years.
But you might be surprised by how much you don’t know about the fluffy franchise and its stars — including those on four legs and on two.
Take a look below to see some surprising facts about Lassie from behind the scenes of the heartwarming films and television series.
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1. Timmy Never Actually Fell Down A Well
Though Timmy did manage to get himself into plenty of jams that required canine assistance, the popular scenario of falling into a well was never one of them.
2. The Original Lassie Was A Stunt Double
The handsome collie named Pal was at first rejected for Lassie Come Home because he was a male, but was hired to do stunts and eventually impressed the filmmakers so much that the role was given to him completely.
3. Lassie Was Actually A Lad
After Pal’s success, all the pups to step into the role of the iconic lady pooch were actually male dogs. Producers realized females shed more while in heat and generally look smaller.
4. Pal Played His Own Son
In Son of Lassie, he pulled double duty by playing both the mother and son roles.
5. Tommy Rettig Was Allergic To Dogs
This and the fact that he was aging out of the childish role were among the reasons the first young star of the show decided to leave after just three seasons.
6. Timmy Had Two Sets Of Parents
From December 1957 through September 1958, Timmy’s parents were played by Cloris Leachman and Jon Shepodd.
Rumor has it that Cloris wasn’t a fan of her matronly role and actively fought to leave the series.
7. There Were More Dogs Behind The Scenes
To make sure they didn’t get lonely on set, all the Lassies had canine buddies to hang out with when the cameras stopped rolling.
In the early ’70s, when the role was played by a pup named Hey Hey, there were two miniature poodle friends for him to play around with: Buttons and Bows.
8. Jeff And Porky Didn't Really Get Along
Though they played best friends on the show, the pair reportedly fought often while on set.
9. The Role Was A Family Affair
After the first two episodes, Pal’s son, Lassie Jr., took over the titular role until 1959, when his health began to fail.
Lassie Jr.’s sons, Spook and Baby, took turns in the role after that until the two final syndicated seasons, when their brothers Mire and Hey Hey, shown above, took over.
10. All But One Lassie Lived A Long Life
Baby, who spent more time in the role than any of his relatives with a total of six years on the show before suddenly passing away at age 8, was the only one of the dog actors to not live at least 17 years.
Did we miss any fun facts about Lassie? Let us know in the comments and please SHARE with your friends!