OPENS JAN. 4, 2005

Never work with kids or animals, actors are warned, but an exception can be made for German shepherds. In the silent-cinema era, there were more than a dozen canine heroes (and plenty of doubles and stand-ins) who had movie franchises. After all, these resourceful dogs could then do just about anything a human performer could; it wasn’t until later that their limited vocabulary became a problem. Long before his descendants became TV stars, Rin Tin Tin was making such action pictures as Tracked by the Police (Tuesday, Jan. 4), in which he and fellow shepherd Nanette save some hapless humans from disaster by closing a dam’s floodgates. This 1927 film will be shown with Wolfheart’s Revenge, a Western that was made two years earlier and stars one of Rinty’s cinematic rivals, Wolfheart. Rin Tin Tin plays Lobo, a canine half-breed, in 1925’s Clash of the Wolves (pictured; Friday, Jan. 14). There’s a bounty on Lobo’s head, but one day a young prospector named Dave finds the animal wounded. Dave nurses Lobo back to health, and in gratitude the dog protects him from the thug who tries to steal his land. The film is billed with “The General’s Daughter,” a 1958 episode of a later Rinty’s ABC TV series, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. The series ends with the Thursday, Jan. 27, triple bill of two 1926 adventures, The Sign of the Claw and The Phantom of the Forest, with 1924’s “The Screen Almanac: Every Dog Has His Day.” The series opens Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2005, and runs through Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005 (all films are at 7 p.m.; see Showtimes for a complete schedule), at the Library of Congress’ Mary Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. (202) 707-5677. (Mark Jenkins)