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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