Jean: The First Canine Film Star in the US

Jean became famous in history as the first dog to star on film in the US.

In 1910 Laurence Trimble, an aspiring writer and actor, visited Vitagraph Studios in New York with his dog, a female collie named Jean, to do research on a story he was writing about film making. While on the set, the director was in need of a dog to play a scene and Trimble suggested Jean might be able to play the role. Trimble guided Jean during the filming and the talented dog performed perfectly. She soon became famously known as the Vitagraph Dog.

Jean not only became the first dog to have a leading role in motion pictures in the US (the first canine film star was Blair, also a collie, who starred in British films), she was the first dog to have her name in the title of her films. Trimble directed Jean in more than a dozen silent films between 1910 - 1915. Jean worked with Florence Turner, an actress known as the Vitagraph Girl, and with other actresses including Helen Hayes who was eight years old at the time. According to Hayes in a 1931 interview with The New York Times, "I had long curls and they let me play the juvenile lead in two pictures in support of Jean, the collie... Jean was the most famous dog of the day and I was very thrilled."

In 1913, Jean took a break from filming to have a family. Motion Picture World reported the news "Jean, the Vitagraph Dog, is the happy mother of six little ones. Mother and children all doing nicely, thank you." A documentary short film titled Jean and Her Family was released that year.

Jean passed away in 1916.

Jean the Match-Maker

Many silent films were lost over time; however, Jean the Match-Maker (1910) was recently discovered and preserved. You can watch the 13 minute video at National Film Preservation Foundation.