Did Timmy Ever Actually Fall Down a Well on Lassie?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV LEGEND: Lassie frequently saved Timmy after the boy fell down a well.

After being the pet of a young boy named Jeff for the first four seasons of Lassie, Lassie settled in with a new owner named Timmy for the next seven seasons. Timmy (played by Jon Provost) is the most famous of Lassie’s owners, which also included some Park Rangers in later seasons and a children’s orphanage in the last two syndicated seasons.

There is a famous joke about the standard plot on an episode of Lassie. I don’t know exactly where it is from – it certainly could be Saturday Night Live, but I have an idea that it is likely older than that (as Lassie ran from 1954-1973, so you figure SOME comedian must have made fun of the show during those years), but it goes like this.

Lassie comes running in to Timmy’s mother and barks a couple of times. The mother (played most famously by June Lockhart, although Cloris Leachman originated the role) replies, “What’s that, Lassie? Timmy fell down a well?”

The joke mocks the way that Lassie was able to so accurately communicate with the adults on the show to let them know of the trouble Timmy got into, and boy did Timmy get into a lot of trouble!
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Did MGM Give Up Their Rights to Lassie Just to Avoid Paying Lassie’s Trainer Backpay They Owed Him?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE/TV URBAN LEGEND: MGM gave up the rights to Lassie in exchange for not paying $40,000 in back pay to owner/trainer Rudd Weatherwax.

(NOTE: This is also pretty much a TV Legend, as well, so I’ll include it in both archives)

Rudd Weatherwax and his brother Frank trained the dog Pal who starred in the hit 1943 film, Lassie Come Home (co-starring a young Roddy McDowell), which was adapted from the Eric Knight novel of the same name.

The movie was popular enough to spin off a series of sequels, including, among others, one film featuring a young Elizabeth Taylor…

In 1951, the film series was dried up and MGM was looking for a way to get out of their contract with Weatherwax. They still owed him another $40,000, which certainly was not chump change in 1951. What they decided to do next changed, well, Lassie’s history, at least, forever.
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