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Emil Jannings

Emil Jannings
Born Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz
(1884-07-23)23 July 1884
Rorschach, Switzerland
Died 2 January 1950(1950-01-02) (aged 65)
Strobl, Austria
Cause of death
Liver cancer
Occupation Actor
Years active 1914–1945

Emil Jannings (23 July 1884 – 2 January 1950) was a Swiss-born German/Austrian actor. He was the first person to be presented with an Oscar when he was honored with the first Academy Award for Best Actor, at the 1929 ceremony.

Best known for his collaborations with F. W. Murnau and Josef von Sternberg (including The Blue Angel (1930), with Marlene Dietrich), Jannings later starred in a number of Nazi propaganda films.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Later life 3
  • Marriages 4
  • Death 5
  • Cultural depictions 6
  • Filmography 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Early life

He was christened as Emil Jannings in Rorschach, Switzerland, the son of a Russian-German mother and an American father.[1][2] While he was still young the family moved to Görlitz in Germany and in the town state theatre Jannings started his stage career. He worked in Bremen and Leipzig before joining the Max Reinhardt theatre company in Berlin.[3]


Jannings as the Devil in Faust

Jannings was a theater actor who went into films. He starred in the 1922 film version of Othello and in F. W. Murnau's The Last Laugh (Der Letzte Mann, 1924), as a proud but aged hotel doorman who is demoted to a restroom attendant. Jannings worked with Murnau on two other films, playing the title character in Herr Tartüff (1925) and Mephistopheles in Faust (1926). Jannings eventually started a career in Hollywood. In 1929 he won the first Best Actor Oscar for his work in two films: The Way of All Flesh (now lost), and Josef von Sternberg's The Last Command.

His Hollywood career came to an end with the advent of talkies as his thick German accent was difficult to understand. His dialogue was initially dubbed by another actor in the part-talkie The Patriot (1928), although Jannings' own voice was restored after he objected. Returning to Europe, he starred opposite Marlene Dietrich in the 1930 film The Blue Angel, which was filmed simultaneously in English with its German version Der blaue Engel.

According to Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend (Simon and Schuster, 2011), Jannings was not actually the winner of the first best actor vote, but the runner-up. While researching her book, Orlean discovered that it was in fact Rin Tin Tin, the German Shepherd dog, one of the biggest movie stars of his time, who won the vote. The Academy, however, worried about being taken seriously if they gave the first Oscar to a dog, chose to award the Oscar to the human runner-up.[4]

Later life

With Joseph Goebbels in 1938

During the Third Reich, he starred in several films which were intended to promote Nazism, particularly the Führerprinzip: The Youth of Frederick the Great (1935), Der Herrscher ("The Ruler" 1937), Ohm Kruger (Uncle Kruger, 1941) and The Dismissal of Bismarck (1942).[5] Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels named him "Artist of the State" in 1941.

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. His active role in Nazi propaganda meant that he was subject to denazification, and no comeback attempt was possible. He retired near Salzburg, Austria, and became an Austrian citizen in 1947.[3]


Jannings was married three times. All three marriages were to stage and film actresses and all three ended in divorce. His first marriage was to Hanna Ralph, his second to Lucie Höflich, and his final marriage was to Gussy Holl.[5]


Jannings died in 1950, aged 65, in Strobl, from liver cancer.[6] His Best Actor Oscar is now on display at the Berlin Filmmuseum.

Cultural depictions

  • In the 1972 film Cabaret, singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) finds herself at a high-society dinner party; she tries to impress someone at the table by suggesting that she is a friend of Emil Jannings.


Year Title Role Notes
1914 Arme Eva
Im Schützengraben
Passionels Tagebuch
1916 Aus Mangel an Beweisen Dr. Langer
Die Bettlerin von St. Marien Baron Gelsburg
Frau Eva
Im Angesicht des Toten Paul Werner
Life Is a Dream
Nächte des Grauens
Stein unter Steinen
1917 Das Fidele Gefängnis Quabbe, the jailer The Merry Jail (Europe: English title)
When Four Do the Same Segetoff
Hoheit Radieschen
The Marriage of Luise Rohrbach Wilhelm Rohrbach
Der Zehnte Pavillon der Zitadelle
Das Geschäft S. H. Haßler
Der Ring der Giuditta Foscari
Die Seeschlacht
1918 Keimendes Leben, Teil 1 James Fraenkel, Börsenmarktler
John Smith, amerikanischer Ingenieur
Die Augen der Mumie Ma Radu, an Arab aka The Eyes of the Mummy
Fuhrmann Henschel
Nach zwanzig Jahren Horst Lundin 'Korn'
1919 Rose Bernd Arthur Streckmann
Madame DuBarry Louis XV aka Passion
Vendetta Tomasso
Die Tochter des Mehemed Vaco Juan Riberda, Fabrikbesitzer
Keimendes Leben, Teil 2
Der Mann der Tat Jan Miller
1920 Colombine
Anna Boleyn Henry VIII aka Deception
Der Schädel der Pharaonentochter Osorcon, Pharao of Egypt
Algol - Tragödie der Macht Robert Herne
Das Große Licht Lorenz Ferleitner
Kohlhiesel's Daughters Peter Xaver
1921 The Rats Bruno
The Oath of Peter Hergatz
Danton Danton aka All for a Woman
Der Stier von Olivera General François Guillaume
The Brothers Karamazov Dimitri Karamasoff aka Die Brüder Karamasoff
1922 Peter the Great Peter der Große aka Peter der Große
Othello Othello
The Loves of Pharaoh Pharao Amenes aka Das Weib des Pharao
Die Gräfin von Paris aka The Countess of Paris (USA)
1923 Alles für Geld S. I. Rupp
Tragödie der Liebe Ombrade aka The Tragedy of Love (USA)
1924 Der Letzte Mann Hotelportier (hotel porter) The Last Laugh (USA)
Nju - Eine unverstandene Frau Ehemann aka Husbands or Lovers (USA)
Das Wachsfigurenkabinett Harun al Raschid aka Waxworks
Quo Vadis Nerone Extant
1925 Varieté Boss Huller aka Jealousy (USA)
Liebe macht blind Emil Jannings aka Love Makes Us Blind
1926 Herr Tartüff Tartüff
Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage Mephisto Extant
1927 The Way of All Flesh August Schilling Academy Award for Best Actor; Lost film
1928 Sins of the Fathers Wilhelm Spengler excerpts and clips are preserved of this film. Unconfirmed about the total film
The Patriot Czar Paul I Lost film
Street of Sin Basher Bill Lost film
The Last Command Gen. Dolgorucki / Grand Duke Sergius Alexander Academy Award for Best Actor; Extant
1929 Betrayal Poldi Moser
Fighting the White Slave Traffic
1930 Darling of the Gods Albert Winkelmann aka Darling of the Gods
Der blaue Engel Prof. Immanuel Rath aka The Blue Angel (USA)
1932 Storms of Passion Gustav Bumke aka Stürme der Leidenschaft aka Tempest
1933 Die Abenteuer des Königs Pausole King Pausole aka The Adventures of King Pausole
The Merry Monarch King Pausole
1934 Der Schwarze Walfisch Peter Petersen aka The Black Whale (International: English title)
1935 Der Alte und der junge König - Friedrichs des Grossen Jugend Friedrich Wilhelm I. König von Preussen aka The Making of a King (USA)
1936 The Dreamer Direktor Prof. Niemeyer
1937 The Broken Jug Adam, Dorfrichter aka The Broken Jug
Der Herrscher Matthias Clausen aka The Ruler
1939 Robert Koch Dr. Robert Koch
Der Trichter. (Nr. III) scenes deleted
1941 Ohm Krüger Ohm Krüger aka Uncle Kruger (International: English title)
1942 Die Entlassung Bismarck aka Bismarck's Dismissal (UK)
1943 Altes Herz wird wieder jung Fabrikdirektor Hoffmann
1945 Wo ist Herr Belling? Firmenchef Eberhard Belling aka Where Is Mr. Belling?

See also


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  1. ^ Roman Rocek: Die neun Leben des Alexander Lernet-Holenia. Eine Biographie. Böhlau, Wien u.a. 1997; ISBN 3-205-98713-6. S. 186
  2. ^ Frank Noack: "Jannings. Der erste deutsche Weltstar". Collection Rolf Heyne, München 2012
  3. ^ a b c d e "Herr Emil Jannings A Great Film Actor" (Obituaries). The Times (London). Wednesday, 4 January 1950. (51580), col E, p. 7.
  4. ^ "Throw Rin Tin Tin A Bone & Give Back The Pooch's Best Actor Oscar",; January 2012.
  5. ^ a b Emil Jannings at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^, Obituary for Emil Jannings (2 January 1950),]; accessed 26 October 2014.

Further reading

  • Frank Noack: Jannings. Belleville, München 2009 ISBN 978-3-933510-50-1
  • Carl Zuckmayer: Geheimreport. Hrsg. von Gunther Nickel und Johanna Schrön. Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2002, ISBN 3-89244-599-0; pp. 136–45
  • Emil Jannings: Theater, Film - Das Leben und ich. Autobiographie. Berchtesgaden: Verlag Zimmer & Herzog, 1951. (posthumous)
  • Herbert Ihering: Emil Jannings: Baumeister seines Lebens und seiner Filme. Heidelberg 1941

External links

  • Photographs of Emil Jannings
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