Off screen his name was Skippy; on screen he has many different personas.
In the Thin Man series he was Asta. In The Awful Truth he was Mr. Smith. He made A films and B films. Above he’s pictured with Wendy Barrie, his costar in 1935’s It’s A Small World.
Rin Tin Tin may have ruled in the Twenties and Lassie in the Forties and early Fifties. But Skippy made his mark in classic Hollywood in the Thirties. Watch for him in various furry incarnations in 1937’s The Awful Truth, 1938’s Bringing Up Baby, in 1938’s Topper Takes A Trip and, of course, The Thin Man pictures.
Well, who exactly is Skippy? The Wire Fox Terrier-actor was born in either 1931 or 1932 (the record is inexact), and was trained from puppyhood by his owners plus a team of trainers. At the age of one, he made his movie debut as an extra.
At his peak, he was hailed as Hollywood’s most intelligent animal star. He responded facilely to verbal commands, even hand cues. Performers fell in love with him; Cary Grant, for example, playfully wrestles with Skippy (as Mr. Smith) in The Awful Truth.
He was put on the payroll at the rate of $250 weekly, a tidy sum in the Thirties.
In all, Skippy racked up some 20 credits from 1932 to 1947. Movie audiences most readily identify him as the pet of Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) in The Thin Man as well as its sequels (After The Thin Man; Another Thin Man; Shadow of the Thin Man; The Thin Man Goes Home; Song of the Thin Man).
Asta, you’re not a terrier, you’re a police dog, Nick tells Skippy. There’s the happy couple below with our man in the middle.