Lee Aaker won over the hearts of the many people who tuned in to watch the popular television series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. Aaker played the character Rusty, an orphan and the owner of the dog Rin Tin Tin.
The show’s debut episode aired when Aaker was 11 years old. He went on to appear in all 164 episodes of the series.
During a 2011 interview, Aaker said he initially earned $250 per episode of Rin Tin Tin. He eventually earned $500 per episode during the show’s final season.
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Aaker’s acting career actually got started when he was only nine years old. His first role was in the 1951 film Benjy, and he was cast as the title character.
In addition to Benjy and Rin Tin Tin, Aaker starred alongside John Wayne in the 1953 film Hondo. Other titles he appeared in include The Atomic City, Mister Scoutmaster, and Ricochet Romance.
Aaker retired from acting after 1963, with his last roles being in Bye Bye Birdie and The Lucy Show.
The Hollywood Reporter states that after Aaker left the acting world, he spent the next two decades working as a carpenter. He also taught skiing lessons to underprivileged children and individuals with disabilities.
Paul Petersen, former star of The Donna Reed Show and an advocate for child actors like Aaker, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about him. He said Aaker struggled with drugs and alcohol throughout his life and only had one “surviving relative that could not help him.”
So it was Petersen who shared the sad news with The Hollywood Reporter that Aaker passed away on April 1 after suffering a stroke. He died near Mesa, Arizona at the age of 77.
Lee Aaker, Child Actor on ‘The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,’ Dies at 77 https://t.co/Zohaiu8irS
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) April 14, 2021
We’re deeply saddened by the news of Aaker’s death. He was such a talented young actor, as he proved on Rin Tin Tin and the many other projects he starred in.
You can remember Aaker by watching him in the intro for the Rin Tin Tin show in the video below. May he rest in peace.