Emil Jannings  

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Emil Jannings (July 23, 1884 - January 3, 1950) was an actor and the first winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor. He won the 1928 Oscar for two films - The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command. He also starred in F. W. Murnau's The Last Laugh, a film notable in silent cinema for its lack of title cards, and in the 1922 film version of Shakespeare's Othello.

Christened Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz in Rorschach, Switzerland, of a German mother and an American father, Jannings, as a theater actor, had a promising Hollywood career come to an end when talkies made his thick German accent difficult to understand. He returned to Europe, where he starred opposite Marlene Dietrich in the classic 1930 film, The Blue Angel, filmed in English simultaneously with its German version Der blaue Engel. He soon spotted that the unknown Dietrich was a star in the making, while his own career was past its peak, and he was especially spiteful to her throughout the filming, according to her.

Besides The Last Laugh, Jannings worked with Murnau on two other films, playing the title character in Herr Tartüff and Mephistopheles in Faust.

During the Third Reich, he starred in several films which were intended to promote Nazi philosophy, particularly the Führerprinzip: Der Herrscher ("The Ruler" 1937), The Youth of Frederick the Great (1935) and The Dismissal of Bismarck (1942). Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels named him "Artist of the State" in 1941. His involvement with the Nazis ended any chance he may have had for a comeback in the United States.

When Allied troops entered Germany in 1945, Jannings reportedly carried his 1928 Best Actor Oscar with him as proof of his former association with Hollywood. However, Jannings' active role in Nazi propaganda meant he was prohibited from working, and doomed any comeback attempt. He then retired to his farm in Austria. Very proficient in money matters, Jannings was one of the highest paid actors of his time.

Jannings died in 1950 in Strobl, Austria of cancer at the age of 65. His Best Actor Oscar is now on display at the Filmmuseum Berlin in Berlin, Germany.


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