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While watching some Fatty Arbuckle films, I was struck by the athletic prowess of one Luke the Dog, who certainly had to be one of the earliest canine film stars from the silent era.

Luke the Dog, from "The Cook" (Dir. Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, 1918)

Luke the Dog pursues a thief -- he's got it coming to him!

Perspective shot: Luke the Dog vs. a runaway thief

Yup, one of the earliest dog stars was an American Pit Bull Terrier, that breed which was was to become as maligned as Fatty Arbuckle himself, though for entirely different reasons and in a much later epoch of American cultural history. But in their heyday, Luke the Dog and Fatty Arbuckle were quite the cinematic couple.

Fatty Arbuckle and Luke the Dog go for a ride

A decent restoration can be found on the disc The Cook and Other Treasures, released by Milestone on DVD and also available through Netflix. The collection also contains a Harold Lloyd comedy, “Number, Please?” (Dir. Hal Roach, 1920) which features a different pit bull actor and a fluffy little lap dog that serves as little more than a comedic prop, a live accessory that fuels the jealousies of two dueling suitors.

Harold Lloyd tires to recover a missing lapdog for a lady friend

The defenseless little thing wanders off from his mistress, Mildred Davis, and it’s up to Harold Lloyd and Roy Brooks to get him back if they are to have any hope of riding in the balloon with the dog’s mistress… (take that metaphor as you will). Basically, this little white dog is the anti-Luke; one is completely helpless and devoid of personality, the other is a focal character of the film and a contemporary star in his own right.

For your enjoyment, here are some highlights of Luke the Dog’s career in silent film:

Thanks to YouTube user laughland for the upload.