This delightful film is the template for all hero dog movies to follow, especially the Lassie films.
Maybe it is an urban legend, but allegedly the surge in popularity of the name Rover for pet dogs started with this movie. When a baby is kidnapped, the family dog tracks down the kidnapper’s lair, returns to the family home to fetch Dad, whereupon Dad deciphers the dog’s signals and follows him to rescue the child. The film was so popular that it played for years. Story has it that the original print wore out from so many copies being made that the producers had to re-shoot the movie three times to satisfy demand.
Cecil Hepworth, who produced Rescued by Rover, was an innovative early British film-maker who was there at the beginning and went on making films until the 1920’s. Most of his later feature films are now lost, as his gamble to create a large studio fizzled financially in the 1920’s, and he was forced out of the film business. But many of his early films survive from the era when he was a true pioneer. He reveled in trick photography films like several of the early movie-makers, such as Georges Melies, who were fascinated by the technical possibilities of the medium. Hepworth made the first movie version of Alice in Wonderland, for instance, in 1903. He also invented an early system for sound on film.
Rescued by Rover is generally cited as the first movie that paid established actors to play roles. Two professional actors are in the cast. The film is studied as an important step in the development of film grammar. The action is propelled by parallel sequences of shots as the dog searches for the baby, then retraces his exact steps in reverse to return home, then again retraces his steps with Dad in tow to rescue the Baby. In 1905, it was only three years until D. W. Griffith began his directorial career, amalgamated all the developments that came before, and assumed the mantle of “father of film grammar.”