Frank Freeman Jr.

Active - 1953 - 1959  |   Genres - Science Fiction, Adventure, Drama, Western, Romance

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A longtime animal trainer responsible for coaching such legendary screen animals as Benji and Lassie, Frank Freeman (credited as Frank Inn) got his start training animals when, after being hit by a car (and declared legally dead), he was given a small dog to keep him company during his convalescence. Born the son of a Quaker preacher in Camby, IN, Freeman got his break in show business as a janitor at MGM. Showing off his first trainee to animal trainer Henry East (the man responsible for the coaching of Asta in the Thin Man films), Freeman was hired immediately and soon began work on such films as the Lassie series and National Velvet (1944). Moving on to coach hundreds of animals during his six-decade career, Freeman's animals took major roles in such films as Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Daring Dobermans (1973) and such television series as I Love Lucy, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Green Acres. One of his most recognizable trainees from a Burbank animal shelter that he rescued, a likeable young pup who had previously appeared on Petticoat Junction, went on to a successful career as Benji in a series of films by director Joe Camp. Freeman's work would later find him the first inductee into the International Association of Canine Professionals Hall of Fame. In late July 2002, Frank Freeman died of natural causes in Sylmar, CA. He was 86.

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