Hitchcock once said, “All actors should be treated like cattle.” Sure, it’s a callous remark, but even worse, it’s factually incorrect. Let’s face it: All actors are not the same. Some should be treated like rambunctious chimpanzees, others like dogs, still others like giant seafaring creatures—it all depends. In fact, as our list is about to prove, you’ll see why treating certain actors like the animals they are is not only what they deserve, but what they need to become breakthrough, big money stars.
TOTO! Who doesn’t love Toto? Most people don’t realize that Terry was actually a girl doggie—what an actress! No wonder Terry’s career extended beyond Oz. She worked in over a dozen films including Bright Eyes with Shirley Temple, and her last film, Tortilla Flat, with Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamar. For Oz, Little Terry was paid $125 per week (that’s about $2,200 in our money). Not only was that more than the singing Munchkins earned, but more than most working Americans at the time.
Rin Tin Tin
Rescued by an American Soldier from a WWI battlefield, Rin Tin Tin starred in 27 films spanning both the silent era and talkies between 1922 and 1931. His salary was a whopping $6,000 per week, which works out to about $78,000 a week in today’s money. In fact, Rin Tin Tin was so loved, he was one of the key reasons Warner Bros. avoided bankruptcy in the 1930s. Rumor has it that in 1929, Rin Tin Tin received the most votes ever for a Best Actor Oscar®, but the Academy made it a policy to give the awards only to humans.
This ferocious looking hunk of adorableness starred in Windwalker (1981), The Bear (1988), White Fang (1991), On Deadly Ground (1994), Legends of the Fall (with Brad Pitt, 1994) and The Edge (1997). There were many other roles as well, including Bart’s memorable appearance in The Great Outdoors with Dan Akroyd and John Candy. He received $1 million for The Edge and had career earnings topping $6 million. If you made that kind of dough, you’d be roaring too.
He was just another magnificent whale actor doing off-Broadway (we’re talking waaaay off Broadway. Marineland.), until his breakout role in Free Willy. Keiko became a national icon overnight, and earned $36 million from the gig. Happily, his stardom earned him the thing he longed for most: Freedom. In 2002, Keiko was released back into the wild Norwegian sea, and was last seen with the biggest ever grin on his face.
Francis, The Talking Mule
With the voice of Chill Wills and a face with limitless comic expressions, Francis was the star of the much-loved eponymous series, which ran from 1950 to 1956. While Francis didn’t receive the highest salary of her day (yep, her real name was Molly—she played a boy mule), she certainly did well for the studio. Francis was purchased by Universal from Jake and Jenny Frazier in Drexel, Missouri for the whopping sum of $350, and she went on to earn them millions. Fun fact: Francis’s trainer, a gentleman named Les Hilton (who was a protégé of Will Rogers), went on to train Harvester, the horse who played Mister Ed. Both of the animals seemed amazingly adept at mouthing human words, a skill Hilton taught them by providing them great novels to read, taking them to lectures from noted Oxford professors, and putting a thread into their mouths, which when tugged, would cause them to try to remove it by moving their lips.
Best known for his comic turn as Tarzan’s sidekick, Cheeta, in the 1930s, he also appeared in Laurel and Hardy’s classic Dirty Work (1933) and Jungle Love (1938) with Hedy Lamar, which was his last picture. Jiggs is not to be confused with Mr. Jiggs, the Orangutan who appeared in The Jungle Book and whose work is largely considered derivative by primate critics.
Before he was purchased by Roy Rogers, Trigger, whose real name was Golden Cloud, starred in a handful of not really worth mentioning movies. From that humble beginning, this handsome, 15.3 hands palomino actor went on to become one of the most famous cowboy stars of all time. Trigger was special. He could take direction—by voice—and could easily perform more than one-hundred tricks, including walking on his hind legs and untying Roy Rogers’ hands.
One of America’s great movie heroes, Pal started as a measly stunt dog on the 1943 MGM film Lassie Comes Home, starring child stars Elizabeth Taylor and Roddy McDowell. Originally, Pal lost the role to a glamorous prized show collie, but during production, Pal was given a the chance every young pup star dreams of: The chance to try again. Pal proved to be a one-take wonder, and soon, Miss Fancy Pants Collie was back on Actor’s Access looking for bit parts in community theatre while Pal went on to become a legend. Pal became the very first Lassie and went on to earn $4,000 a week (roughly $51,000 in 2015 dollars). Pal lived happy, wealthy and content to the age of 18.
Okay, so the little fella that played opposite Marilyn in Monkey Business might not have been the highest paid monkey of his day, but he did play opposite Marilyn Monroe, so stop your complaining.
You know him best as Eddie, the unforgettable Jack Russell from Frasier. This adorable furry character actor made a stunning $10,000 per episode, and when he got a bit too old for the part, his son Enzo took over the role. Proving once again that in this town, it’s all about who you know.
Although he never received proper billing under his own name, the handsome palomino star of Mr. Ed captured the heart of America during the run of his series from 1961 to 1968. Bamboo Harvester had a gentle, patient temperament, which made him a gem to work with. In the early days, his lips were made to move by placing a thread in his mouth (See “Francis”, above), but remarkably, and this is true, Bamboo learned that he was supposed to move his lips when series star Alan Young stopped talking, and they were able to stop using the thread trick. We’re talking a real pro.
Who can forget Mushu’s unforgettable turns as Frank the Pug from Men in Black (1997) and its sequel? His first spoken line on film is a modern day classic: “If you don’t like it, you can kiss my furry little butt!” He was so popular in the first film, his role was greatly expanded in the second, including a star turn singing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”.
Now we’re talking Big-Time Star. Mega. A supernova. Crystal has appeared in more than twenty films and numerous TV shows. And get this. Her five most recent films have grossed $1.5 billion, which buys a whole lot of bananas, even at Whole Foods. Her breakout role was in Ben Stiller’s Night at the Museum films, although critics lavished praise on her emotionally-stirring and insanely hilarious performances in the Hangover films as the drug dealing monkey. However, it was Crystal’s lesser-known vehicle, the moderately popular television series Animal Practice, which elevated her to the stratosphere of serious earners. She pulled in $12,000 per episode, a gig that earned her $264,000 per season.