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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Frank Inn


Elias Franklin Freeman was born May 8, 1916. The story is that he was raised by a very strict, religious father (a Quaker preacher) and he ran away from home a few weeks before graduating from high school.  He headed to California and changed his name to Frank Inn to make him harder to locate.

When he was about 20, he was ran over by a car and was actually pronounced dead but just before mortician students were about to begin the learning the embalming process on him, one of them saw Frank move - thank goodness!!

A friend then took him in while he re-cooperated.  During this time, he got a dog, he fell from his wheelchair and the dog barked and he soon discovered that by moving his hands in certain ways, he could train the dog, who was named Jeep, to do tricks.

He often hung) around the MGM lot, looking for work and one day a trainer was having problems getting a dog to do a difficult trick, (climb up the stairs, jump on a bed, go under the covers and then stick its head out from the foot of the covers) but Frank said he had a dog that could do that and so... his career began.  He then started working on the Blondie series of movies.  (I love those movies !!)

This eventually led to working with the Weatherwax brothers, famous animal trainers, which led to Frank working with training Lassie.

Frank Inn, worked with many famous, well-known, well-loved animals, such as Arnold the Pig (from Green Acres) Cat from Breakfast at Tiffany's (which led him to winning his first of more than 40 PATSY awards), Tramp from My Three Sons, Elly Mae's "critters" from The Beverly Hillbillies, and the chimpanzees who starred in Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, just to name a few.


One of his best known animals, was Higgins.  Higgins, a cute little well.. mutt, is know to most people as Benji.  But actually he was on Petticoat Junction playing the role of "Dog" for 6 seasons.  He appeared in 163 episodes.  He came out of retirement at the age of 14 to play Benji.  (He was only in the first Benji movie, later movies starred his daughter, Benjean).


Frank Inn found Higgins at a Burbank Animal Shelter in 1960, when Higgins was approx 3 years old.  Frank taught him a new trick each week while he was on Petticoat Junction - that is quite amazing !  He said Higgins was the smartest dog he had ever seen and I am inclined to agree.  Higgins could show so much expression with a look. When Frank passed away in 2002, at the age of 82, Higgins' ashes were supposedly buried with him (although I do not know for sure if that is true or just a legend).

Frank Inn was an incredible trainer though and he loved animals. His daughter said that he would sometimes take an animal aside and talk to him and tell him what he had to do in the scene and the animal would do it - he was obviously a very special man with a very special gift.


He also was a religious man and  a writer of poetry.  He wrote these poems for Higgins.  Thank you Mr. Frank Inn for sharing your amazing talent and gift and bringing such happiness to Hollywood and into our homes.

My Little Brown Dog
by Frank Inn


 I have a little brown dog that all my friends dearly love.
It is Benji, "God's Gift", to my family from heaven above.
 
A dog is one of God's created creatures that is faithful to men.
Because he is so faithful, he is called, "man's best friend."
 
He is a companion to people, he is a shepherd to sheep
He guides the blind and he guards your home when you sleep.
 
Sometime you may betray your dog, but as long as he should live
He will follow his master faithfully and he will always forgive.
 
I wonder if Christ had a little brown dog that trusted and followed like mine
With two silky ears and a nose round and wet and two eyes round and tender that shine.
 
I am sure that if Christ had a little brown dog, it would feel like His master was God.
And would need no other proof that Christ was divine, and would worship the ground that He trod.
 
Now I don't believe that our Lord had a dog, because in the Bible I read
How He prayed in the garden alone, while His friends and disciples had fled.
 
I am sure that if Christ had a little brown dog, with a heart so tender and warm,
That dog would never have left Him to suffer alone, but he would have snuggled close under His arm.
 
Licking the fingers on His hands in agony clasped,
Still trying to comfort his boss.
 
And when they took Jesus away, he would have trotted behind.
He would have followed Him all the way to the cross.
 
Young children should learn to be faithful at home
Like my little brown dog I described in this poem.
 
Take them to Church and don't let them get bored,
So they can learn to be faithful and follow the Lord.
 
They should hear about Jesus, how he was born here on earth,
Remembering what He did for them when we celebrate His birth.
 

My Gift To Jesus
by Frank Inn
 

If someone had given baby JESUS a dog that was as loyal as mine,
To sleep by His side and follow Him and feel like He was Divine.
 
 As He grew into manhood He'd have a dog following Him every day,
As He preached to crowds, or if He went into the Garden to pray.
 
It's so sad that CHRIST went away to face death alone and apart,
With no dog close beside Him to help comfort His MASTER's heart.
 
When JESUS arose that Easter morn, how happy He would have been,
If a little dog licked the hand of the Man who died for all men.
 
Our LORD has one now as He just called for my popular dog Benji,
Later, God called for my Wife and now they are both in Eternity.
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23 comments:

  1. Are you Franks daughter, If so, I knew your parents 40 some years ago when we lived in Mooresville. When I was a child, I loved your parents.

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  2. No, I'm not his daughter - just a big fan of his. He was an incredible person.

    That is so amazing to me that you actually knew him and his wife! I bet you have some wonderful stories to share/

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  3. Hi there...I am Frank's daughter...and it looks as though we will be visiting Mooresville this spring to discuss a memorial museum in his honor...it's something we have been wanting to do for a long time...it's very nice to know that folks out there remember him with such fondness...he was an amazing man.

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    1. Ms. Copson, I am so thrilled by you taking the time to comment. You dad brought such joy to so many through his incredible talent and love of animals.. A memorial museum would be such a wonderful tribute to him!

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    2. Ms. Copson, if you are the Kathleen Hees Copson who is the daughter of Frank L. Inn please contact us since we want to help support via grants the memorial of Frank since he has helped many friends and relatives with animal training skills. Email us at ngg92102@gmail.com as soon as possible.

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    3. Hi, I am a cigarette lighter collector and I recently purchased an advertising lighter for Frank Inn. I’d like to write an article for our club newsletter. It has an image of a cat and a St. Bernard (possibly). It says “Frank Inn” “***Trained dogs and Working Cats*** around the edge of a circle. In opposite corners within the circle it reads: “Movies” and “TV” In a rectangle in the center of the circle it has an “f” and an “I” in also in opposite corners. Wrapped around the outer circle are the ends of a film strip. Same image on both sides of the lighter.

      I was hoping you might have some information on when this lighter was made, how many were made and if it was for general giveaway or for some special occasion or for special customers. Also, some reliable background on the life of Frank. I can use what is on the internet but sometimes the information is not always completely trustworthy. Also, any good photos of Frank or of Frank in action with animals that I could include. Was Frank a smoker? Lastly I’m emailing you from work so but I could send a photo of the lighter later. Thanks for your time. Guy Email: btrade@ca.rr.com (home)

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  4. Ms. Copson, I am so thrilled by you taking the time to comment. You dad brought such joy to so many through his incredible talent and love of animals.. A memorial museum would be such a wonderful tribute to him!

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  5. I have a photo autographed by Frank that shows Fremont,Rhubarb,Cleo, Tramp,Skippy and Howie. I've found credits for all but Howie. I recognize this tawny mixed breed dog but can't find where I've seen him. Help?

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  6. TheMuse58: Could you email the photo to me (thatchbo at hotmail dot com) or provide a link to the photo so I could see Howie? I would love to help identify Howie.

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  7. Disneypal, the photo is on it's way to you. Thanks for the help!

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  8. I watch "Petticoat Junction" reruns just to watch Higgins first, and Bea Benadaret second! Frank Inn must have been such a wonderful, gifted human being. You can't fool any animal, they know when a person's heart is pure and good: that's why all his animals loved him so much and did what he asked.
    His poems have made me get tears in my eyes because I have a little brown dog myself that looks and acts so much like Higgins (has the same bark too!)
    Now I know the names of more people I can look forward to meeting on the other side; I know that our beloved pets go to heaven too because heaven would be an awfully lonely place without our furbabies!

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  9. I watch "Petticoat Junction" reruns just to watch Higgins first, and Bea Benadaret second! Frank Inn must have been such a wonderful, gifted human being. You can't fool any animal, they know when a person's heart is pure and good: that's why all his animals loved him so much and did what he asked.
    His poems have made me get tears in my eyes because I have a little brown dog myself that looks and acts so much like Higgins (has the same bark too!)
    Now I know the names of more people I can look forward to meeting on the other side; I know that our beloved pets go to heaven too because heaven would be an awfully lonely place without our furbabies!

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    1. Myrna - you are so right - I watched for Higgins first too. I agree - Frank Inn must have been such a wonderful person - animals know who the good people are :) My dog reminded me a lot of Higgins - very smart and would give me that same look (people often told me he looked like Benji) - he is gone now but just as you said, I know he will come running to meet me the day I go to Heaven.

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  10. I am so glad I found this. I had often wondered as a child what "Dog's" real name was. I Loved watching him. As a child growing up I was always bringing dogs home. My nickname was & continues to be "Ellie Mae". He was someone I always looked up too & always wanted to be like!

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  11. I am so glad I found this. I had often wondered as a child what "Dog's" real name was. I Loved watching him. As a child growing up I was always bringing dogs home. My nickname was & continues to be "Ellie Mae". He was someone I always looked up too & always wanted to be like!

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  12. Alyson K., Benji Fan :o)November 6, 2014 at 7:11 AM

    I had the honor and privilege of meeting Frank Inn and "Benji", who was either Benji/Higgins or Benjean, not sure which, but it was around 1977 or so, in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in a mall in Chico, California. Mr. Inn was having some ice cream, and "Benji" was in a child's high chair. I asked Mr. Inn if I could pet "Benji" and share my ice cream with him/her, and he was kind enough to allow me to do so. I visited for a little while, and when I left, Mr. Inn gave me an "I Love Benji" button/pin to take with me. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

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    1. Wow! What a treasured moment. He truly was a special person. I never met him in person but wish I would have. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful memory!

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  13. I have been spending a little time lately researching the worlds greatest animal trainers . I keep coming back to Mr Frank Inn and Higgins . I watch re runs of Petticoat Junction just to watch Higgins and Uncle Joe . I wonder if Higgins has any living descendants ? Any Higgins fan needs to watch " Return To Petticoat Junction " There is a good segment on Frank Inn and Higgins . It takes me back to what I think is a more peaceful time .

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  14. Mr. Frank Inn was a WONDERFUL man!! I have very fond memories of him, his wife and Higgins. In fact, Frank took Benjean to my grandmother's funeral and entertained all the children.

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    1. Wow! How special! He seemed like such a wonderful man! I would have loved to have met him.

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  15. I am so hapy I found this blog today. Reading the stories and sharing of feelings and thoughts, seeing the connections made here for the Inn family and the foundadtion has brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful man and family he has. I recently adopted a little mutt from the Harris County shelter who looks a lot like Benji. The moment I saw him I said to the shelter lady, "Oh, my daughter will live this one! I want this one and I'm going to name him Benji!" the lady told me that was already his name! I just knew in my heart at that moment in time that I was meant to be at the shelter that day to meet my precious little "Benji" gift from God. My daughter and I love this little guy and he has brought us so much joy. I pray we will have many long years of love and happiness with our little Benji just like Mr. Inn had with his Benji.. and I absolutely love the poems Mr. Inn wrote. He was clearly a special man with a loving heart, a great talent, and a great Christian. I've printed his poems and made a frame with both our Benji's and Benjean's pictures. Thank you Mr. Inn for touching our hearts. Thanks be to God for all.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. He truly was a special man. You "Benji" sounds adorable and a true blessing in your life.

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  16. I remember watching Petticoat Junction, Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies but I never knew that one man, Frank Hill trained all the animals on these shows. I can see how much Mr. Inn didn't just train Benji but that he loved his dog very much. I cried when I read the line about Lord calling first his dog and then his wife. He was a very gentle soul.

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