Skip to comments.Frank Inn, famed animal trainer (Benji, green acres) dies (was 86)
Posted on 07/27/2002 9:33:53 PM PDT by chance33_98
Famed animal trainer worked with Benji, Arnold the pig
Saturday July 27, 2002
By ROBERT JABLON Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) Frank Inn, who trained some of Hollywood's biggest animal stars, including Benji the dog and Arnold the pig from ``Green Acres,'' has died. He was 86.
Inn, whose real name was Frank Freeman, died Saturday at a rehabilitation near his Sylmar home where he had stayed since taking a fall in February, said Bob Hillman, his longtime caregiver.
The cause of death was not immediately known but Inn was a diabetic and had been in ill health for several years, said his daughter, Kathleen Hees of Chico.
``He was a dear man and quite an extraordinary trainer,'' said actress June Lockhart, who worked with him on a ``Lassie'' movie in the 1940s.
During a career spanning six decades, Inn trained animals for dozens of movies and TV shows. He students included Cleo the basset hound from the 1950s Jackie Cooper show ``People's Choice'' and Arnold Ziffel the pig for the 1960s television sitcom ``Green Acres.'' He also trained the nearly 500 animals that appeared in TV's ``The Beverly Hillbillies.''
His best-known animal was the spunky, heroic mutt Benji. Inn rescued the original Benji from the Burbank Animal Shelter in 1960. It grew up to star in the TV series ``Petticoat Junction'' and came out of retirement 14 years later to make a popular series of movies.
Inn helped launch the careers of many other trainers, including Karl Lewis Miller, who handled the pig and other animals in the hit movie ``Babe.''
``Most of the trainers today either worked for him or trained by people who did work for him,'' Inn's daughter said.
Animals trained by Inn received dozens of Patsy awards the animal equivalent of the Oscar from the American Humane Association.
His daughter said Inn also had a company in the San Fernando Valley that provided animals for movies and TV.
``He had chimpanzees, and an elephant, lions, farm animals,'' she said.
Inn's career happened by chance. The Camby, Ind.-born son of a Quaker preacher was in California in the 1930s when he was hit by a car. Pronounced dead, he was taken to a morgue where a student learning embalming detected a heartbeat.
Inn was confined to a wheelchair while healing and was given a puppy for company, which he named Jeep after a cartoon character.
He lured the wary Jeep with food and eventually had only to wave his hand for the puppy to appear or bark.
``That was the beginning of my dog training,'' he recalled in a 1999 magazine article.
He was doing menial jobs at MGM when he watched legendary animal trainer Henry East unsuccessfully trying to get a dog to climb up a flight of stairs, enter a bedroom, crawl under the bed covers, stick out his head and bark.
Inn said he had a dog that could do the routine. Inn got Jeep, then used a ball to lure the dog into performing the trick. East was so impressed that he hired Inn to work for him at a salary of 50 cents a day.
Although he retired three times, ending his career for good about 15 years ago.
Inn was a huge man at one time he weighed 400 pounds with a Santa Claus-like beard and a trademark ship captain's hat. He was a devout Christian who did much charity work, providing dogs for the disabled and promoting the adoption of pets from animal shelters.
He could be demanding but ``he'd also give you the shirt off his back,'' Hillman said.
In addition to his daughter Kathleen, Inn is survived by his daughter Lori Grajeda of Chico, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Services were pending.
He kept the cremated remains of Benji, Arnold, the dog Tramp from ``My Three Sons'' and other animals in urns at his home and had requested that the remains be placed in his casket when he died, his daughter Kathleen said.
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