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Lassie (1954 TV series) facts for kids

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Lassie title screen.jpg
Title screen of Lassie (seasons 1–4)
Genre Family
Created by Robert Maxwell
Starring Tommy Rettig
Jan Clayton
George Cleveland
Jon Provost
Cloris Leachman
Jon Shepodd
June Lockhart
Hugh Reilly
George Chandler
Robert Bray
Jack De Mave
Jed Allan
Clyde Howdy
Ron Hayes
Larry Wilcox
Richard Garland
Pamelyn Ferdin
Lassie (various dogs)
Theme music composer Les Baxter
Opening theme Whistle
Composer(s) Raoul Kraushaar
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 19
No. of episodes 591 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Robert Golden
Robert Maxwell
Dusty Bruce
Rudolph E. Abel
Bonita Granville
Leon Fromkess
Production location(s) California
Running time 26 minutes
Production company(s) Lassie Television
Robert Maxwell Associates
Jack Wrather Productions
Original network CBS (1954–1971)
Syndication (1971–1973)
Original release September 12, 1954 (1954-09-12) – March 24, 1973 (1973-03-24)
Related shows

Lassie is an American television series that follows the adventures of a female Rough Collie dog named Lassie and her companions, both human and animal. The show was the creation of producer Robert Maxwell and animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax and was televised from September 12, 1954, to March 25, 1973. The eighth longest-running scripted U.S. primetime television series (after The Simpsons, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Gunsmoke, Law & Order, Family Guy, NCIS, and American Dad), the show ran for 17 seasons on CBS before entering first-run syndication for its final two seasons. Initially filmed in black and white, the show transitioned to color in 1965.



Wrather's wife, Bonita Granville Wrather, who was the series' associate producer, narrated numerous episodes throughout the run of the series, usually the beginning and/or ending of multi-part episodes.


Many early episodes were written by Robert Maxwell under the pseudonym Claire Kennedy. In later years, the writing partnership of Robert Schaefer and Eric Freiwald was responsible for over 150 episodes. They were also responsible for developing the idea of having Lassie with a forest ranger.

Theme music

Lassie used several pieces of theme music during its long broadcast history. For the first season, "Secret of the Silent Hills (Theme from the Lassie TV series)", is used for both the opening and ending theme. Composed by William Lava, the orchestral theme was originally created for the 1940 radio show The Courageous Dr. Christian.

For the second and third season a variation of this theme, titled simply "Lassie Main & End Title", was used for the opening and ending theme. Raoul Kraushaar, the music director for the series, is the listed composer for the theme; however the changes he made to the original are so slight that only a trained ear can tell the difference. The third theme used for the series is an orchestral rendition of the aria, "Dio Possente" (Even Bravest Hearts May Swell) from Charles Gounod's opera, Faust. The exact time this theme started being used is uncertain due to conflicting records; however it is agreed that it was the third series, and was used for at least part of season four for the change of ownership of Lassie.

The most famous of the Lassie theme songs appeared at the start of the fifth season. Copyrighted as "Lassie Main & End Title", the composer credit has never been definitively claimed to this day. The melody is whistled by Muzzy Marcellino. Nicknamed "The Whistler," it remained the series theme for the rest of the "Martin years". With the coming of the "Ranger years", the opening and ending theme was changed to an orchestral version of "The Whistler". Beginning in season 17 (where Lassie traveled alone), and continuing throughout the Holden Ranch era, the theme was changed again, this time to Nathan Scott's arrangement of the traditional folk tune Greensleeves, which became the series theme song for the rest of its run. For the final two seasons, the familiar closing visual of Lassie standing on a hill and lifting her paw, was replaced by the credits on a green background, and flashing from one slate to the other instead of scrolling as in most of the series run. Television composer Nathan Scott scored the music to nearly every episode between 1963 and 1973, except for four episodes.

Plot and themes

The first 10 seasons of the series saw Lassie living on a farm, first with the Miller family (Jeff, his mother Ellen, and her father George - who was called "Gramps" by Jeff). Season 4 saw the Millers taking in young orphan Timmy, who then lived with them on the farm, as well as the unexpected death of Gramps, (reflecting the real life death of actor George Cleveland, who played the character), and with that the Millers moved off the farm, but Timmy and Lassie would stay behind with his new foster parents, Paul and Ruth Martin, who also took over the farm. All 10 of the Miller/Martin farm seasons would for the most part focus on "boy and his dog" adventures with Jeff or Timmy getting involved in some sort of trouble, and Lassie eventually coming to the rescue.

Seasons 11–16 were the "Ranger years" of the series, as Lassie (because she was not able to go to Australia with the Martins when Paul got a job teaching agriculture there) was taken in by U.S. Forest Ranger Corey Stuart (who appeared in a few episodes of season 10) and began to work with the U.S. Forest Service. Color filming was exploited during the Ranger years with Lassie and her friends sent to exotic locations such as Sequoia National Forest and Monument Valley, creating miniature travelogues for viewers. Other rangers would be featured during the latter part of this era when Robert Bray (who played Stuart) left the series.

For season 17, the program shifted gears again and became essentially an anthology series, with Lassie traveling on her own, getting into different adventures each week (similar in format to The Littlest Hobo and, later, to Here's Boomer). No explanation was given as to why Lassie was no longer with the Forest Service. Some episodes during this final CBS season were animals only.

During seasons 18 and 19 (with the series having moved to first run syndication), Lassie was taken in by Garth Holden (played by Ron Hayes) who was in charge of the Holden Ranch – a home for orphaned boys – which he ran with his college-age son and his friend. This (somewhat) brought the show back to its roots by giving Lassie a farm/ranch home base, which is where she settled in for the final two years of the series.

Characters and cast

Human leads

Lassie Tommy Rettig Circa 1955
Tommy Rettig starred as Jeff Miller during the early years of the series (1954–1957), which were syndicated as Jeff's Collie
Lassie Jon Provost 1961
Jon Provost starred as Timmy Martin during the middle years of the series (1957–1964), which were syndicated as Timmy & Lassie
Lassie with actor Robert Bray
Robert Bray starred as Ranger Corey Stuart during the majority of the Forest Service years of the series from 1964–1968
Lassie 1969
Jack De Mave (left) and Jed Allan (right) starred as Rangers Bob Erickson and Scott Turner, respectively, during the later Forest Service years of the series from 1968–1970
Lassie 1971
Lassie traveled on her own in the final CBS season (1970–71), getting into various adventures before settling in at the Holden Ranch for the final two seasons of the series once it moved to first-run syndication. (1971–1973)

1954–1957: Miller Family (Jeff's Collie)

  • Ellen Miller – war-widowed farm woman (Jan Clayton)
  • Jeff Miller – Ellen's eleven-year-old son (Tommy Rettig)
  • George "Gramps" Miller – Ellen's father-in-law and Jeff's paternal grandfather (George Cleveland)
  • Sylvester "Porky" Brockway – a farm boy and Jeff's friend (Joey D. Vieira – using the stage name "Donald Keeler")
  • Constable Clay Horton – the sheriff (Richard Garland)

1957–1964: Martin Family (Timmy & Lassie)

  • Timmy Martin – a foster boy on the Miller farm (Jon Provost)
  • Paul Martin – a young farmer, Ruth's husband and Timmy's adoptive father (Jon Shepodd 1957–1958; Hugh Reilly 1958–1964)
  • Ruth Martin – Paul's wife and Timmy's adoptive mother (Cloris Leachman 1957–1958; June Lockhart 1958–1964)
  • Petrie J. Martin – Paul's uncle (George Chandler) (1957–1959)
  • Cully Wilson – a neighbor of the Martins, who was a farmer and nature lover (Andy Clyde) (1959–1964)
  • Ralph "Boomer" Bates – a neighbor of the Martins who owned a dog named Mike and was Timmy's best friend (Todd Ferrell) (1958–1959)
  • Scott Richards, another of Timmy's friends (Kelly Junge Jr.) (1958)

1964–1970: U.S. Forest Service

  • Forest Ranger Corey Stuart (Robert Bray) (1964–1968)
  • Assistant Forest Ranger Hank Whitfield (Clyde Howdy) (1964–1966)
  • Forest Ranger Bob Erickson (Jack De Mave) (1968–1970)
  • Forest Ranger Scott Turner (Jed Allan) (1968–1970)

1970–1971: Traveling on her own

  • No human leads

1971–1973: Holden Ranch

  • Garth Holden – director of the Holden Ranch (Ron Hayes)
  • Ron Holden – Garth's son (Skip Burton)
  • Dale Mitchell – Ron's friend (Larry Wilcox)
  • Keith Holden – Garth's brother (Larry Pennell)
  • Lucy Baker – a deaf child living near the Holden Ranch (Pamelyn Ferdin)

Dog actors as Lassie

  • Pal (Pilot episodes)
  • Lassie Junior (1954–1959)
  • Spook (1960)
  • Baby (1960–1966)
  • Mire (1966–1971)
  • Hey Hey (1971–1973)

Media information

Broadcast history

First-run Lassie was televised September 12, 1954 to March 24, 1973 with its first 17 seasons airing on CBS Sundays at 7:00 p.m. EST. In 1971, in order to promote community-related programming among local affiliates, the Federal Communications Commission moved primetime Sundays to 8:00 P.M. EST with the institution of the Prime Time Access Rule. CBS executives felt Lassie would not be well received in a time slot other than its traditional 7:00 p.m. slot, and, with the network's other family programs set, the show was canceled. (Lassie was among several shows that CBS canceled during this time period as part of a change in its target demographics.) Lassie then entered first-run syndication with Jack Wrather and Campbell's Soup still on board, and remained on the air for another two years with its final episode airing in March 1973. All totaled, 591 episodes were produced.

An animated reworking, Lassie's Rescue Rangers, followed in fall 1973, immediately after the original series ended (the pilot movie aired in 1972 while the live-action series was still on the air).

Later series

In 1973, ABC created an animated Saturday-morning animated program called Lassie's Rescue Rangers produced by Filmation.

In 1989, what was essentially a sequel series, The New Lassie – featuring Jon Provost as Steve McCullough – aired in first-run syndication. In its seventh episode ("Roots"), June Lockhart reprised her Ruth Martin role when Steve McCullough is revealed to be the adult Timmy Martin. It is revealed that Timmy was never properly adopted by the Martins and consequently was forced to remain in the U.S. when Ruth and Paul emigrated to Australia. Timmy was then subsequently adopted by the McCullough family and began going by his middle name Steven. In 1992, Tommy Rettig made a guest appearance in the final episode, "The Computer Study". This would be his last television appearance prior to his death in 1996.

In 1997, a modified remake – also called Lassie – debuted, airing in the U.S. on the then new Animal Planet cable network. This show (which was filmed in Canada and set in Vermont) also revolved around a boy named Timmy and his dog, though differences in setting and character circumstances precluded it from being an exact remake of the original series.

From 2014-present, a new animated series called Lassie or The New Adventures of Lassie was aired. Lassie lives with the Parker family, 10-year-old red-headed Zoe and her family, Ranger Graham Parker and Dr. Sarah Parker (a veterinarian), in the Grand Mountain National Park. Her best friend is Harvey Smith, whose mother Beth works in the park visitor center. Harvey's late father was a mountain climber. The children's antagonist is a snooty rich girl named Samantha Humphrey. Two seasons were done, the first with traditional drawn animation and the second season with computer-generated animation. The second season (tagged as Season 1) is available on Paramount Plus.

DVD releases

The series was released to DVD between 2001–2007.

DVD Name # Ep Release Date
Lassie's Great Adventure 5 June 26, 2001
Lassie: Best of the Lassie Show 3 November 25, 2003
Lassie: Lassie's Christmas Stories 3 November 25, 2003
Lassie: Best of Jeff's Collie 3 November 25, 2003
Lassie: Lassie's Birthday Surprise 3 November 25, 2003
Lassie: Lassie's Gift of Love 3 November 25, 2003
Lassie: 50th Anniversary Collection 24 September 14, 2004
Lassie: Flight of the Cougar 3 March 6, 2006
Lassie: A Mother's Love 4 May 1, 2007
Lassie's Greatest Adventures Collection 18 September 17, 2019


The TV series was adapted into a comic book by Dan Spiegle, distributed by Gold Key Comics.

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