Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend: 11/09/12
I can't imagine a more perfect author for Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend than Susan Orlean. I knew from the tenacity and eye for detail she showed with The Orchid Thief that this one would be as much of a page turner.
Rin Tin Tin was one of a litter of puppies rescued in France during World War I. He was brought back to the United States and was quickly elevated into a star of the silver screen. Orlean shows how the atmosphere was right for a real life dog to transcend into something of myth.
Of course dogs only live so long, and Rin Tin Tin's stardom and legend surpassed the original dog's lifespan. Orlean goes through the subsequent heirs to the role as well as the most recent attempts to revive the franchise.
Mixed in with the history of the various Rin Tin Tins, is the added information you'll need to fully appreciate the story — including a fascination timeline of dog training in the United States.
My own familiarity is best with the Rin Tin Tin television series that my mother grew up watching. I have one of the books spawned by the series, Rin Tin Tin's Rinty by Julie Campbell. For the original silent era, my first introduction to Rin Tin Tin was through the parody, Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976). As Orlean points out, most of the silent Rin Tin Tin films have been lost (as were so many of the films from that era).