How shocking do you think it must have been back in the day to see a Rough Collie — popularly known as the “Lassie Dog” — capture the imagination of millions of people across the country? In today’s world, it’s not really surprising anymore to see that just about anyone can become famous — and we’re not just talking about people with the names Duggar or Kardashian. But a dog that became a star? Well, that was something special.

Introduced in 1938 in the form of a short story turned novel two years later, before being adapted to the big screen, Lassie — the best friend a boy or girl could have — became a true phenomenon. She (although played by a male pooch) managed to span mediums from books to movies, television, radio (!) and much more. And if you ever heard someone use the expression, “Timmy fell in the well, girl?” … well, now you’ll know what it’s referring to. Although, and we’re sorry to burst anyone’s bubble about this, young Timmy never actually did fall in a well.

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Jim Spellman/WireImage

As Jon Provost, who played Timmy on the Classic TV series, relays to us in an exclusive interview, “Timmy has fallen off cliffs, into rivers, quicksand, and even mine shafts, but never into a well.”

But the show, Lassie and Jon have certainly fallen into the well of pop culture history, and are still enjoying a passionate following so many years later. “It’s a mind-blower,” Jon admits with a laugh. “The show is on in over 50 countries and here on about a half a dozen or more cable networks. But when we made it, obviously we didn’t have a clue. When I started Lassie in 1957, TV was in its infancy and we didn’t have any reason to think that people would be watching this even 10 years down the road, let alone 50. It’s pretty amazing.

“We were watching a show the other morning on Cozi,” he adds, “and just listening to the dialogue, and the meaning that the shows relayed — the values, the morals — might be the reason for its continuing appeal. Timmy wasn’t the smartest kid and probably wouldn’t be here without the dog, but he always learned something. He never talked back to his parents, there was always a moral and I think that’s why it’s kept its intrigue. I think back from that era and the shows weren’t just for mindless entertainment like we have so much of today. There was something deeper than that. And the producers, directors and the writers cared about what they were giving to the public. They made their money, but they made sure they were actually giving the public something.”

Please scroll down for more background on Lassie and our conversation with Jon Provost.

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