Friday, March 19, 2021

Toto

Humans aren't the only ones to get the spotlight on this blog.  Every so often, I find the final resting place of a famous animal star, Mr. Ed being the most memorable.  Strangely enough, these screen legends often have mysteries surrounding their final arrangements, and the subject of this week's blog is certainly no exception.

Terry was born In Chicago, Illinois on November 17, 1933.  Or so the Internet claims.  How the hell anyone would know that date all these years later seems somewhat suspicious to me, but for purposes of this blog, we'll just go with it. 

She was a Cairn Terrier owned by trainer Carl Spitz, a German immigrant who came to America following World War I. During the war, Spitz trained military and police dogs using a system of hand signals he created.  He expanded upon this technique in 1926 when he opened the Hollywood Dog Training School, which is still in operation today.  Terry was its most famous graduate.

In 1934, Terry made her first appearance in the film Ready for Love, starring Ida Lupino.  She'd follow it up that same year, appearing as "Rags" in the film Bright Eyes, starring Shirley Temple (below right).

Terry stayed relatively busy for the next few years, earning a wide variety of screen roles.  The most famous of these, and probably the reason you're reading this, was as Toto in The Wizard of Oz (1939).  Terry earned an astronomical $125 per week ($2,300 today), more than many of her human counterparts in the film.  Not bad work if you can get it.  

As successful as the film was, it was almost the end of Terry's career, and reportedly her life as well.  During production, one of the film's extras stepped on Terry's foot.  It was a clean break, and Terry spent two weeks recuperating at the home of Dorothy herself, Judy Garland.  Garland became so attached to Terry that she offered to buy her from Spitz, but he was not interested in selling.  

By the time the film was completed, Terry had fully recuperated and was able to attend the world premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater.  The film became such a runaway success that Spitz officially changed her name to Toto in 1942.

After Oz, Toto stayed busy in Hollywood, racking up sixteen additional credits to her name.  One of her last films was Tortilla Flat in 1942, which served as a reunion of sorts, allowing Toto to once again work with Oz director Victor Fleming and the Wizard himself, Frank Morgan.

On September 1, 1945, Toto passed away.  She was 11 years old.  Spitz buried her at his ranch in Studio City.  Thirteen years later, both the ranch and the grave were destroyed during construction of the Ventura Freeway.  Toto's remains were lost forever.

In 2011, a memorial for Toto was dedicated at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  






Rest in peace, little dog.

Trivia
  • Toto's life was chronicled by author Willard Carroll in the 2013 biography I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog Who Was Toto.  Really.  You can buy a copy from Amazon.

  • The dedication ceremony for Toto's memorial was greeted with great pomp and circumstance, and included celebrity guests, including the great grand-children of Oz author Frank L. Baum.  The Hollywoodland blog filed this exclusive report.

  • Toto also has her own page on the Internet Movie Database.  Check it out here.

  • Toto performed her own stunts.  I can't believe I just wrote that.

  • Following in her mother's legacy, Toto's daughter Rommy appeared in the films Reap the Wild Wind (1942) and Air Force (1943).

11 comments:

  1. I tried to look up where the ranch used to be on a map, but I couldn’t figure it out. Excellent story.

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  3. So very sad that her resting place was destroyed by the freeway construction, how can she rest in peace there with traffic thundering past constantly. Would have been so fitting if her remains could have been recovered & placed with the monument.

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