Loving Asta, The Canine Film Star

I’ve been dogsitting this week, which has me thinking about my favorite canine of classic film. I have to admit, I’m not an original at all: I love Skippy, of Asta fame. It doesn’t matter that I’m not a wire-haired terrier fan, or actually a terrier fan period. That dog runs the show, and I love him for it. So, apparently, did everyone who watched him. According to his IMDB bio, William Powell fell for him so hard in The Thin Man that he tried to adopt him. (Now we know that chemistry wasn’t just for show).

My favorite performance of Skippy’s, however, is not in my favorite sleuth film, wonderful as he is in it, and fantastic as his acrobatics as Asta are.

(By the way, that dog has a SERIOUS list of credits). No, my favorite role is his take on Mr. Smith in The Awful Truth.

There’s so much to love: His character’s name: the mister, and all it implies. His exposure of Lucy’s (Irene Dunne’s) shenanigans through his love for mirrors and hats.

Impressive hide and seek face hiding. And best of all, his role in Jerry’s (Grant’s) needling of his soon-to-be-ex (Dunne), first in the trial’s custody battle, and then on canine custody visits. Mr. Smith’s integral role in the couple’s lives is as much a part of the script as their jealousy and insecurities, and so closely models the dog love exhibited by so many couples I know.

Lest you doubt my love, take a look at the image on my blog: That’s Grant, laughing with Skippy in their incomparable The Awful Truth duet. You can watch this thrilling, lovable dog in action thanks to a marvelous YouTube tribute (you’ll have to forgive the song choice).

Leah Williams runs the excellent film blog Cary Grant Won’t Eat You.

We originally reprinted this post on MovieFanFare last June, and are running it again as part of our Dog Days of Summer Week.

  • Tom Johnson

    I am so glad you wrote this. Not only is The Awful Truth my very very favorite classic film, but I love “Mr. Smith” in it!
    Thanks!