Hepworth’s Emblematic Dog

Rescued by Rover
R: Lewin Fitzhamon. P: Cecil Hepworth. UK 1905

The Dog Outwits the Kidnapper
R: Lewin Fitzhamon. D: Blair, Barbara Hepworth, Cecil M. Hepworth. P: Hepworth. UK 1908

“A producer, director, writer and scenic photographer, Cecil Hepworth survived in the film business longer than any other British pioneer film-maker. His film-making career began in 1899 when he converted a small house in Walton-on-Thames into a studio. Twenty-five years later it would be the over-ambitious expansion of the studio that would drive him out of business. In the course of his career, Hepworth became one of the most respected, if not the most dynamic, figures in British cinema. (…)
In 1905 he presented the first British movie star, a collie with the stage name of Rover. Rescued by Rover (co-d. Lewin Fitzhamon, 1905) was an enormous popular success. The following year he presented a new star – a horse – in Black Beauty (1906), which was then teamed with Rover in Dumb Sagacity (1907). By 1910 Hepworth had recognised the growing cult of personality in the cinema, and was promoting two series featuring recurring comic characters, Mr Poorluck, played by Harry Buss, and Tilly the Tomboy, featuring Alma Taylor and Chrissie White.
Rescued by Rover is notable for its efficient style, using consistency of direction from one shot to the next to clarify the action, yet Hepworth showed little interest in the development of film language. Indeed, he was to speak out against the narrative system of classical Hollywood films in later years. His interest remained in scenic photography and he brought this pictorial style into his films.”
Simon Brown: Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors
Screen Online

“After the phenomenal success of Rescued by Rover (1905), Cecil Hepworth decided to make this sequel. His daughter Barbara Hepworth (not the sculptor) again played the baby (actually now a toddler), while the family dog, Blair, repeated his performance as Rover. Like the original, it is a simple story – a there and back again plot – but the sight of a dog fairly convincingly driving a car loses none of its entertainment value over a century later. The emblematic shot or ‘curtain call’ close-up of the main actors, Rover and the baby positions them as characters who will return. Barbara, one imagines, outgrew the role, but Blair would reappear as Rover as late as 1912.”
Bryony Dixon
Screen Online