Der Letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (F.W. Murnau, 1924). The entire movie. Notable for the lack of intertitles and the first use of a moving camera (although this is debatable.) Roger Ebert’s review.
Susan Orlean discovered that the true Best Actor winner in the first Oscars in 1929 was the German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin, not the German silent film actor Emil Jannings, who walked away with the prize. And Orlean thinks it’s high time that the Academy corrects the injustice next month by giving a posthumous Best Actor prize to the biggest four-legged movie star of all time.
When troops of the Allied Powers entered Germany in 1945, Jannings reportedly carried his Oscar statuette with him as proof of his former association with Hollywood. However, his active role in Nazi propaganda meant he was subject to denazification, and any comeback attempt was doomed.
Emil Jannings made over 70 films during his illustrious career, including The Blue Angel (1930) and It Only Happened Once (1958). He stopped making films in Hollywood with the advent of sound because of his very thick accent, and returned to Germany, where he became a Nazi supporter and made films that supported this ideology.
Since Jannings was returning to Germany on April 27 - before the banquet was to be held in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel - he asked the Academy if he could receive his gold statuette early. The fledgling organization agreed, making his the very first Academy Award ever presented.
The Swiss-born Emil Jannings takes this one for two films: 1928’s The Last Command, and 1927’s The Way of All Flesh. In the former he plays – with gusto – an aristocrat Czarist who falls from grace when Imperial Russia collapses. Directed by the magisterial Joseph Von Sternberg, the film was based on a real life general who had to flee Russia after the 1917 Communist revolution. The latter film, directed by The Wizard of Oz’s Victor Fleming, is unfortunately lost to history.