“We may never be fortunate enough to travel down a yellow brick road with a real Scarecrow or Tin Man or Cowardly Lion, but those lucky of us have had or do have our Totos. When we stroke and hold our own current four-legged friends, we think of all the dogs that came before. And we think of Toto.”

Willard Carroll

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love when a film adds an animal friend to the mix – whether it’s Gertrude the duck in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Asta from the The Thin Man series or Baby, the music loving leopard. Animals add an element of innocence, fun, or danger and can draw emotions from us in a way that a million words of dialogue cannot.

If you’ve been hanging around my blog for any amount of time you’ll realize that I admire The Wizard of Oz, so when I saw that this book was available I knew I needed to add it to my collection. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.

In this charming book, you’ll discover the life of Terry, the little dog that nobody wanted, who became one of the movies’ most memorable pups and a beloved icon.

Before there was The Dog Whisperer, there was Carl Spitz – a German immigrant who changed the way we understand and train our dogs. When he started his Hollywood Dog Training School in 1927, dog training for the public was according to Spitz, “considered, in general, nonsense.” Spitz’s foundation for training was simple: firm, affectionate direction. As a military and police dog trainer, Spitz had devised a system of silent dog commands to be used by the deaf which he would later use for directing canines before the cameras.

Terry the Cairn Terrier was brought to Carl and his wife’s home for training (housebreaking), but after she completed her training Terry’s owners never paid their bill. The Spitz’s adopted little Terry as their own. She became a loved member of the family and eventually, a bonafide star – rechristened as ‘Toto.’

what did i enjoy?

The format – Throughout the telling of this heartwarming story are many visuals, presented in a scrapbook style highlighting Toto’s career. Production photos, photos of her life at home, press clippings, and memorabilia are heavily scattered throughout its pages.

Worth the price of admission alone are the inside covers inscribed to Toto by her many co-stars. My favorites have to be Judy Garland’s – “Dear Toto, I think I’ll miss you most of all (don’t tell Ray!)” and Jack Haley’s – “You warm this Tin Man’s heart!”

The star stories – In addition to Oz, Toto was cast in Fury (1936) with Spencer Tracy and Bright Eyes (1934) with Shirley Temple, to name a few. The account of Toto’s first meeting with Clark Gable is particularly memorable.

In addition to discussing Toto’s career and life story, the book also talks about the other dogs in Carl Spitz’s kennel and the movies they were featured in. For instance, Buck, who starred with Gable in Call of the Wild (1935), was the first star to emerge under Spitz’s Hollywood Dog Training School. Another notable is Prince from Wuthering Heights (1939).

Carl Spitz with his prized pets before embarking on their tour (1942). The dogs were valued at $20,000 each!

The perspective – 99% of the time when reading about Old Hollywood I’m reading about humans. It’s interesting to change it up and see how a dog gets ready for a day of shooting, the problems they encountered while filming, or how the trainer prepares them for a screen test.

what would i change?

Nothing! I only wish it were longer.

who is this book for?

Any fan of The Wizard of Oz, classic movies, “rags to riches” stories, or dogs in general would enjoy this book.

Since this book is written from a dog’s perspective and Terry is telling you her story, I think this book would be great for kids who are showing an interest in classic movies, Oz fans in particular.

Virginia Weidler, Toto, and Gene Reynolds in a publicity photo for Bad Little Angel (1939)

want to know more?

In the introduction the author says how he was driven to write the book because at the time Toto did not even have an Imdb page! As of this writing, this book appears to be the only book dedicated solely to her. It was published in 2001.

I have found some information on Toto in The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz as well as The Wizardry of Oz: The Artistry and Magic of the 1939 M-G-M Classic by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman (I own the 2004 expanded edition).

You can purchase today’s book here!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

2 thoughts on “Book Nook – I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, The Dog Who Was Toto by Willard Carroll

  1. I agree, animal sidekicks are a wonderful additon! I love the ones that you named, and Toto is, of course, a favorite. I never realized that he was the same dog as in Bright Eyes! This book sounds perfectly charming, great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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