R.I.P. Lee Aaker, child star who played Rusty in 'The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin'

He later became a carpenter. He was 77.

The Everett Collection

In World War I, an American soldier named Lee Duncan rescued a German Shepherd from a battlefield. He named the dog "Rinty" and brought the pooch back to the States. "Rin Tin Tin" found work in movies and became an overnight canine star.

By the 1950s, Duncan and Hollywood were on Rin-Tin-Tin IV. The dog got his own television series in 1954, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. There was one little problem — Rin Tin Tin IV was not a great "actor." A well-trained performer named Flame Jr. played Rin Tin Tin. In this series, the dog was living at Fort Apache a US Cavalry post.

Any loyal dog needs a human companion, and that's where Lee Aaker came in. The young star portrayed Rusty, an orphan raised by soldiers and living in the military fort.

Aaker was 11-years-old when the series kicked off. He appeared in all 164 episodes across five seasons of Rin Tin Tin, making him one of television's first adolescent superstars. 

He was no newcomer, either. In 1952, he appeared in The Atomic City, a nuclear-bomb thriller. In the 1953 noir Jeopardy, he played the son of Barbara Stanwyck. He had 10 films to his name by the time he was 10.

Following the end of Rin Tin Tin in 1959, Aaker, like most child stars, struggled to break out of his stereotype. He appeared in two episodes of The Donna Reed Show. You might remember him as a stuttering classmate who acts in a school play with Mary (Shelley Fabares) in "That's Show Business."

His final role came on The Lucy Show and it was a bit of a callback to his most famous role of Rusty — he played a cadet at a military academy in "Lucy and the Military Academy."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Aaker transitioned away from acting to become a carpenter. On April 1, he died at the age of 77.

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jacko3 29 months ago
Sure .. can recall as a very young person, that Adventures of Rin Tin Tin .. neat stuff .. GOD Bless & LOVE the Life, Soul & Legacy of Lee Aake ~ Amen ~ Alleluia!P.S. Would enjoy seeing it again as fill-ins..... 
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harlow1313 38 months ago
Thanks, columbo-scat! Like you, I have come to doubt his expertise on quakes.

And more importantly, I agree with you, medical experts, and Dr. Fauci. KEEP WEARING THE MASKS!
MarkusAurilius 38 months ago
Wasn’t he in Hondo? Thrown in the lake by John Wayne?
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BUZHODGES 38 months ago
cosmos 38 months ago
Another nail in the coffin of the 1950’s.
Child stars like Mr Aaker were TV siblings to the millions of child viewers who were just beginning to experience life. They were role models to the developing “nuclear”families who had no life experiences .
TV was not only a friend but family.
So God Bless the Children who helped pave the way into a New Age...
Take care Lee Aaker, thanks for paving the way , and making life just a little more special...
tweezer 38 months ago
I Remember the show to, loved it. I sure would like to see the show again. Please find a good spot for this show on your schedule. God knows, you need some new blood. Thanks
Honeychan 38 months ago
RIP Mr. Aaker. May his memory be a blessing.
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JERRY6 RaymondMMackie 38 months ago
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trdjm65 38 months ago
remember the show would like to see again
Conniewolf 38 months ago
At the age of 5 , I remember waking up after having my tonsils out, and that show was just ending. Loved that show. May he RIP, he brought a smile to many children’s faces at that time.
StrayCat 38 months ago
I remember watching Rin Tin Tin as a child. Interestingly, it's difficult to find out anything about the character of Lt Rip Masters played by the actor James Brown because searches generally turn up only the singer. Brown had small a role in Sands of Iwo JIma with John Wayne and he had a small role in Going my Way with Bing Crosby which is about all i could find.
FMAMACAT 38 months ago
R.I.P Lee Aaker. I use ti watch repeats of this show, It was a good show. I loved Rin Tin Tin.
MrsPhilHarris 38 months ago
I can remember either seeing this show or maybe a movie. I loved it. Wanted a German Shepherd.
Big3Fan 38 months ago
Rin Tin Tin, Sky King, Spin and Marty, etc. Great time to be a kid. RIP, Cpl. Rusty.
MadMadMadWorld Big3Fan 38 months ago
I never got into "Rin Tin Tin" or Disney's "Spin and Marty." But I really enjoyed "Sky King" with the airplane as a substitute for the Western 'horse'.
Big3Fan MadMadMadWorld 38 months ago
I have the whole series on DVD complete with the Nabisco ads. I remember having a big crush on Penny. "From out of the clear blue of the Western sky comes Sky King!"
ericdumptee89 Big3Fan 38 months ago
so true,great memories
tsgabel Big3Fan 17 months ago
I agree with you! It was a great time. We were kids who did normal kid things: riding bikes, skinning our knees, wearing metal roller skates with a key, playing in dirt and mud, playing dodgeball in the street, wearing snowpants to school, sticking gum under a desk, getting punished for saying a bad word, building "forts", running around the whole block for "hide and seek" because everybody knew everybody else. I watched Rin-Tin-Tin, Sky King, Fury, Zorro, Roy Rogers, Space Cadets (I think that's what it was called), Disney on Sunday nights, Gene London, Captain Kangaroo, Chief Halftown, Winky-Dink, Soupy Sales, Bertie the Bunyip, and more, some of which were indigenous to only the Philadelphia area. If we stayed inside too long, Mom would get after us saying "You TV lizards, go play outside and get the stink blown of you!" We'd make our own Halloween costumes and run around all different neighborhoods even in the
dark (it was safe back then) to collect candy, a good bit of which Mom would confiscate when we weren't paying attention.
We waited in line through "Santa's Magic Kingdom" in a Philly department store, sat on Santa's lap to tell him what we wanted, then went home dreaming about the gifts he'd bring - a Barbie Doll house (the first one ever made that was cardboard), a 64 count box of crayons, a Skee ball toy and a Vac-U-Form (anybody else remember that one?) Such wonderful, happy memories. Life wasn't perfect, we didn't expect a whole because our Dads were not high income earners but it truly was a great time to be a kid.
We were very unsophisticated but for the most part grew up without the angst that today afflicts children as young as 6.
My great-grandkids are still babies for the most part, and I hope they grow up without the kind of idiocy and trauma that today's youngsters are experiencing.
JuliaWilliams 38 months ago
I grew up watching 'Rin-Tin-Tin (although I am a chihuahua lover--RIP, Penne), and had the pleasure of meeting Lee Aaker in New York City a few years ago.
sierra127 38 months ago
The last time I saw him was on the Donna reed show he and Mary had Too dance together. At the school. He was smaller than Mary. So he bought shoes with double the size souls so he was taller but dancing just didn’t work That first evening.
I really enjoy him. With me he would stick out over a crowd. And would of enjoy him. If he would of been in more show or movies. Another one passes away. Because of more TV producers thinking they know best
Moody 38 months ago
Rin Tin Tin was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. He & Roy Rogers' dog Bullet were the reason I loved German Shepherds. I never had one as a kid but my wife & I had 3 of them over the years. They were all great dogs & very loyal to our family.
Tlor 38 months ago
Everything we knew and loved and honored has been ripped, torn down or mocked. Its not a beautiful world where kids could enjoy their childhood, they know more at 4 years old than I did at 19!!
Tlor 38 months ago
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TheresaPerry DanielZabo 38 months ago
I remember watching the commercial about going to see the "Mermaids at Wekii-Wachi, in Florida, back in the late 1950s, and asking my mom could we go? She told me we couldn't because "We're Negroes and we're not allowed to go there". That was the first time I had ever heard my family couldn't go to a place just because of what we looked like. "America the Beautiful".....not for everyone.
JERRY6 TheresaPerry 38 months ago
yeah and i remember going to a hotel and beaches in the 50's no dogs and jews allowed posted , get over it and move on . there will always be people looking for a reason to hate someone , screw them .
TheresaPerry 38 months ago
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CelticTwilight Tlor 38 months ago
Oh poor little white racist is upset that uppity minorities don't know their place anymore.
CelticTwilight DanielZabo 38 months ago
Crawl back into your Qanon hole and cry about your dear orange leader not being able to steal the election.
harlow1313 38 months ago
Sometimes, it seems the world I once knew melts away, slow and steady, like a glacier.
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