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Monday, January 21, 2013


Dorothy And Toto

1900 when he wrote the book, The Wizard of Oz, he told a group of children about a wondrous place. “What’s it called?” they asked. Caught without a name, Baum looked around his office, saw the file drawer labeled “O-Z,” and the rest is history.
Frank BaumWho invented the image of the character, Toto? Baum described the fictional dog’s appearance and temperament in his stories but never designated a specific breed. It was Baum’s illustrator, W.W. Denslow, who used his own pet Yorkie as his inspiration for the original drawings in the book. What about the dog who played Toto? Well, that’s quite a story. According to reports, casting humans for “The Wizard of Oz” was easy compared to casting Toto. MGM Studios had to find a dog that looked like the drawings in Baum’s book, but no one could recognize the breed that Denslow had drawn. Then, along came Terry, a Cairn terrier belonging to well-known Hollywood dog trainer, Carl Spitz.The Cairn had “officially” arrived in America fifteen years after Baum’s book. Scrappy, courageous, comical, mischievous, twinkling eyes, a funny, wee nose, lively, playful, devoted, steadfastly loyal, Toto never left Dorothy’s side except to chase something important or to save her life. An elderly couple from Pasadena, California brought Terry – a difficult pup born in 1933 – to Carl Spitz. The pup was painfully shy and hid under the bed, refusing to come out for weeks. Spitz eventually succeeded in helping her overcome her fear and made sure she was house-trained, but Terry’s owners never came back to claim their pup. Nor did they pay Spitz. Terry remained with Spitz, who was doubtful that the nervous dog could ever cope with the demands of the Hollywood movie set.There are two versions of the story about the discovery of Terry as a movie star. According to one source, the director of MGM visited Spitz’s kennels one day, looked at Terry and decided that she look perfect for the role of Dorothy’s dog, Toto. The other story is a little different. Carl Spitz learned about the search for a dog to play Toto, saw the drawings from Baum’s book, decided that Terry was perfect and took her to the movie studio where all agreed that she was indeed the real Toto. Regardless of how she really got the part, Terry was five years old when she was discovered and became a star that would delight generations to come.
Dorothy and TotoDespite producers’ concerns over Terry’s temperament, Spitz and Terry proved to be a great team and Spitz trained her to obey silent cue commands. Judy Garland and Ray Bolger, who starred in the film, commented that the little dog was “ willful, stubborn, and difficult during rehearsals.” But in fact, the little dog was a trooper. When the lights came on and the cameras rolled, Terry was a “professional” despite her fear of the powerful wind machines used on the movie set, and of the actors who played the wicked witch’s soldiers who accidentally injured her foot. She even had to play a “male role,” and respond to a different name for the movie. The contemporary musical group, Toto, named themselves in her honor.The stuff of a true legend: Terry starred in numerous Hollywood movies with such stars as Shirley Temple and Spencer Tracy. At the end of her career, she returned home to Carl Spitz’s Hollywood kennel where she enjoyed a happy retirement until her death in 1942. Spitz buried her at a pet cemetery on the grounds of his Hollywood Dog Training School in Southern California. Many years later the land was bought for the expansion of the Ventura Freeway. Willard Carroll, the owner of the world’s largest collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia, unearthed a treasure in the rubble that had been the pet cemetery. It was a metal box that contained a leather-bound scrapbook of about 100 yellowing pages recording the “rags-to-riches” story of the little dog that played Toto in the movie. The scrapbook was crafted into a first-dog account of Terry’s life from her days as an abandoned pup to Hollywood stardom and happy retirement. It also tells about her co-stars and the making of “The Wizard of Oz.” “I, Toto” by Willard Carroll is available today. The movie version of “The Wizard of Oz” is offered on video and DVD and worthy of any collection of classic movies.Toto facts to ponder: As a matter of comparison, Terry, the Cairn Terrier that started it all, earned $125.00 per week in 1939 for her work in “The Wizard of Oz” where she endured frightening work conditions, injury on the movie set and ordinary food. In contrast, Mickey Rooney’s 1990’s stage production of “The Wizard of Oz” featured three Cairn terriers in the role of Toto and each was given a private van, a dressing room, separate doggie beds and gourmet dog food. More recently, six Cairns that played Toto in a production of “The Wizard of Oz” on ice, lived in luxury hotel rooms, were chauffeured by taxis to each show, and had personal maids. No Toto, this isn’t Kansas anymore!


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