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Film: Stowaway
Director: William A. Seiter
Performers: Shirley Temple, Robert Young, Alice Faye
Breed(s) featured: Pekingese, terrier mix?
Production information: 20th Century Fox, 1936 (USA)

When “bandits” invade Sanchow, China, the orphan Barbara — known to her Chinese familiars as Ching-Ching (and played by Shirley Temple) — flees with her dog to Shanghai. She is abandoned there, but luckily she soon befriends a rich playboy, Tommy Randall (Robert Young). Ching-ching accidentally stows onto his luxury cruiser as he sails around the Orient. While hiding from authorities, she also receives help from Susan (Alice Faye). Tommy, a seemingly incurable bachelor, and Susan, previously engaged to a stuffy shipping magnate with mommy issues, are both charmed by the orphaned waif. They come to her rescue by arranging a sham marriage in order to legally adopt her and give her safe passage to the United States. You’d think that would be the end of the story, leading to happily ever after, but some more antics and musical sequences are to be had before Ching-Ching shows the couple how truly in love they are.

Sadly, Ching-Ching’s dog Mr. Woo does not consistently accompany her throughout the story, but his presence certainly adds to her charm. He’s a nice, soft puppy who melts quite agreeably into her arms.

The puppy who plays Mr. Woo doesn’t appear to be a Pekingese (as erroneously reported on several sites), but some kind of terrier mix (looks like a Cairn puppy to me?). J.C. Suares, who compiled Hollywood Dogs (San Francisco: Collins Publishers, 1993) includes a very clear promotional photo of Shirley Temple and Mr. Woo, identifying him as a “curly-topped, tiny mutt” (p. 19) — a visual echo of the starlet herself.

With his discernible snout, pricked ears, normally-proportioned legs and stub of a tail, the dog that plays Mr. Woo is definitely not the Pekingese that was pictured with Shirley Temple in another 1936 photo shoot.

Shirley Temple and Ching-Ching in Palm Springs, California, dated 10 December 1936. Photographer uncredited.

Yet there seems to be a viral bit of misinformation spread all over the Internet that Temple’s long-time affection for Pekes began with the adoption of the dog that played Mr. Woo, whom she renamed Ching-Ching after her own character.

If Temple’s first Pekingese came from Stowaway, then it wasn’t the mutt that played Mr. Woo, but a nameless puppy in a cage that Ching-Ching (the character) spies in a Hong Kong market.

Nothing actually comes of this Pekingese in the plot, so we are never granted a really good shot. But it’s more likely that this was the pup that became Ching-Ching… I still have to dig around to find out what happened between Ching-Ching I (who appears to be black and white with a predominantly black head) and Ching-Ching II (red or gold with a dark mask?). The latter would take the screen with Temple a couple years later in Just Around the Corner (along with a whole nursery of hounds!).

At any rate, some kind of collective wishful thinking willed the dog star into Shirley Temple’s private home after the film’s final wrap. Sadly, the archives are mum about what actually happened to Mr. Woo, who he eventually belonged to, and whether or not he lived a nice life. In the meantime, historical accuracy be damned. The pretend Peke did his part to make this film rub oddly against the fabric of reality, generating a surreal charge that ran through and enlivened the entire film.

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