There is no place like Home

There is no place like Home

The 1939 film of The Wizard of Oz is memorable for many reasons, and one of them is certainly the presence of Dorothy’s adorable dog, Toto.

How the dog came to be cast in the starring role is a perfect Hollywood story as it involves unkind, deadbeat owners, the rescue of the little dog by a trainer and his family, and of course, it involves little Terry herself, a female Cairn Terrier, who seemed to understand that succeeding in show business brought with it a guarantee of a good home and never having to go back to her mean owners again.

Terry is said to have been born in 1933 in Alta Dena, California. She was adopted by a married couple from Pasadena who had no children and evidently no patience for puppy training. Terry had a problem with wetting the rug, and the couple became very frustrated, eventually calling Carl Spitz, who was running the successful Hollywood Dog Training School which trained regular people’s pets when required but specialized in training dogs for show business.

Spitz accepted Terry, and within a relatively short time Terry was housebroken and ready to go home. When Spitz notified the owners, they had no intention of picking up Terry—or paying the bill. Spitz had acquired a new pup. Terry was an occasional guest in the house (located on the same property as the kennels), and soon she was finding laps to sit in and endearing herself to the family.

The first audition to which Spitz took Terry was one for Bright Eyes (1934) starring child star Shirley Temple. After the choice of possible dogs was narrowed down by the casting people, the final test was meeting Shirley and her own dog, a Pomeranian named Ching-Ching, and when Terry did well with Ching-Ching. Shirley turned to the adults observing the scene and gave her approval: “She’s hired.”

Five additional films followed for Terry before The Wizard of Oz. Carl Spitz heard that a new film of the book was to be made, and he researched the story, running Terry through all the types of training that might be necessary if Terry were cast. Ultimately, Terry was selected to play Toto.

The success of Toto in the film is to Spitz and Terry’s credit. Terry played a part involving a vast cast (think of the Munchkins, the Winkies and the Flying Monkeys) as well as major stars dressed in animal and fantasy costumes. It could not have been easy for a canine to remain cool and collected, yet Toto appears in almost all the scenes of the movie.

It was also the first time when a film was made of The Wizard of Oz that no one tried to write the dog out of the script partially or totally. Terry, however, excelled at everything from listening intently when Judy Garland sang him/her Somewhere over the Rainbow to withstanding three wind machines mimicking a tornado. There was one bad incident; a large Winkie accidentally stepped on Terry’s foot, and Terry was given a few days off to recover from the injury.

Terry earned $125 a week compared to Judy Garland who was paid $500 a week. The male actors who played then Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man made between $2500-3000 per week.  



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