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 buried with him.
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
If someone had given baby JESUS a dog that was as loyal
My Gift To Jesus
by Frank Inn
by Frank Inn