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Eric Knight had a distinguished and multi-faceted career as a novelist, illustrator, film and drama critic, journalist, and filmmaker. He is best known as the author of the classic children's novel Lassie Come Home, the story of the deep devotion between a boy and his dog. Knight and his wife, Jere, raised collies on their farm in Springtown, Bucks County. Lassie has since become an icon, spawning eight movies and seven television shows.
Knight's childhood in England, marked by poverty and hard work, influenced many of his other books, which deal with the rift between economic classes in England and his own struggle to rise above industrial drudgery. Knight trained to be an artist but was hindered by color blindness. He instead became an author, journalist, filmmaker, and illustrator. He worked for a variety of papers, including the Philadelphia Press and Public Ledger, as a film and drama critic. He was a screenwriter in Hollywood from 1934 to 1936. At the request of director Frank Capra, Knight served in the US Special Services as a filmmaker in 1942. Sadly, he was killed in an airplane crash in Dutch Guinea while serving as a major in Special Services.
Photograph of Eric Knight with his dog, Toots. Image courtesy of Geoff Gehman.
Education and Training
Knight attended the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School, the National Academy of Design in New York City, and the Beaux Arts Institute. He was also a member of the Art Students League.
Connection to Bucks County
Knight lived with his wife, Jere, in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in Springtown from 1939 until his premature death in 1943. Lassie Come Home was written at the farmhouse in 1939. Jere Knight, a poet, was very active in conservation efforts in the Springtown area. The Jere Knight Nature Preserve was created with land donated by her.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Jere Knight, Samson Raphaelson, Jack Kirkland, and Fred Finkelhoffe all lived in the Springtown area of Bucks County. Knight, Samson Raphaelson, and S.J. Perelman all worked together in Hollywood as screenwriters.
They Don't Want Swamps and Jungles, broadcast by Canadian Broadcasting Co., March 1, 1942
Portrait of a Flying Yorkshireman: Letters from Eric Knight in the United States to Paul Rotha in England, 1952
Novels and Short Stories
Invitation to Life, autobiographical novel, 1934
The Flying Yorkshireman, novella, 1936
Song on Your Bugles, under pseudonym Richard Hallas, 1937
You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up, 1938
The Happy Land, 1940
This Above All, 1941
Sam Small Flies Again: The Amazing Adventures of the Flying Yorkshireman, 1942
Lassie Come Home, later developed into eight movies, a regular television series, and six other television productions
This Above All, made into a 20th Century Fox movie with Tyrone Power and Joan Fontaine, 1942
Lassie Come Home, 1940
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Screenwriter, Hollywood, CA, 1934-1936
Journalist, Philadelphia Press, Bronx Home News (film & drama critic), Darien Review, Norwalk Sentinel, Philadelphia Sun, Philadelphia Public Ledger
US Army, Special Services, Film Unit, World War Two
Lecturer, Writer's Conference, Boulder, Colorado
Lecturer, State University of Iowa, Iowa
Young Readers' Choice Award, Lassie Come Home, Pacific Northwest Library Association, 1943
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