Emil Jannings

Emil Jannings

Oscar winner Jannings back in Berlin, May 1929
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
Spouse(s) Hanna Ralph (m. 1919–1921)
Lucie Höflich
Gussy Holl (m. 1923–1950)

Emil Jannings (23 July 1884 – 2 January 1950) was a German actor, popular in 1920s Hollywood. He was the first Oscar recipient, honored with the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 1929 ceremony. To date, he is still the only German to have won the Best Actor Oscar.

Jannings is best known for his collaborations with F.W. Murnau and Josef von Sternberg, including 1930's The Blue Angel, with Marlene Dietrich. Der blaue Engel was meant as a vehicle for Jannings to score a place for himself in the new medium of sound film, but Dietrich stole the show. Jannings later starred in a number of Nazi propaganda films, which made him unemployable as an actor after the fall of the Third Reich.

In 1960, Jannings was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1630 Vine Street for his contribution to motion pictures,[1] making him one of fewer than a hundred Oscar-winning male actors in Hollywood history to receive a star.

Childhood and youth

He was christened Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz in Rorschach, Switzerland, the son of Emil Janenz, an American businessman from St. Louis, and his wife Margarethe (née Schwabe), originally from Germany.[2][3] Jannings held German citizenship; while he was still young the family moved to Leipzig in the German Empire and further to Görlitz after the early death of his father.

Jannings ran away from school and went to sea. When he returned to Görlitz, his mother finally allowed him to begin a traineeship at the town state theatre, where Jannings started his stage career. From 1901 onwards he worked with several theatre companies in Bremen, Nuremberg, Leipzig, Königsberg, and Glogau before joining the Deutsches Theater ensemble under director Max Reinhardt in Berlin.[4] Permanently employed since 1915, Jannings met with playwright Karl Vollmöller, fellow actor Ernst Lubitsch, and photographer Frieda Riess, who after World War I all were at the heart of the Weimar Culture in 1920s Berlin. Jannings made his breakthrough in 1918 with his role as Judge Adam in Kleist's Broken Jug at the Schauspielhaus.


Jannings as Kreon in Hasenclever's Antigone, Großes Schauspielhaus, 1920

Jannings was a theater actor who went into films, though he remained dissatisfied with the limited expressive possibilities in the silent era. Having signed a contract with the UFA production company, he starred in Die Augen der Mumie Ma (The Eyes of the Mummy, 1918) and Madame DuBarry (1919), both with Pola Negri in the main female part. He also performed 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 as Mephistopheles in Faust (1926).


His increasing popularity enabled Jannings to sign an agreement with Paramount Pictures and eventually follow his acting colleagues Lubitsch and Negri to Hollywood. He started his career in 1927 with The Way of All Flesh directed by Victor Fleming (now lost) and in the following year performed in Josef von Sternberg's The Last Command. In 1929 Jannings won the first Best Actor Oscar for his work in both films. He and Sternberg also cooperated in Street of Sin (1928), though they actually differed about Jannings' acting in front of the camera.

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) directed by Ernst Lubitsch, 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 not being taken seriously if they gave the first Oscar to a dog, chose to award the Oscar to the human runner-up.[5]

Nazi Germany

Jannings with Joseph Goebbels on Wolfgangsee, 1938

After the Nazi Machtergreifung in 1933, Jannings continued his career in the service of Nazism and cinema. During the Third Reich, he starred in several films which were intended to promote Nazism, particularly the Führerprinzip by presenting unyielding historical characters, such as Der alte und der junge König (The Old and the Young King 1934), Der Herrscher (The Ruler 1937) directed by Veit Harlan, Robert Koch (1939), Ohm Krüger (Uncle Kruger, 1941) and Die Entlassung (Bismarck's Dismissal, 1942).[6] He also performed in his famed role in The Broken Jug directed by Gustav Ucicky. Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels named Jannings an "Artist of the State" (Staatsschauspieler) [7]

The shooting of his last film Wo ist Herr Belling? was aborted, when troops of the Allied Powers entered Germany in Spring 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 that he was subject to denazification, and a comeback attempt would not be legal.

Ironically, in the same period Dietrich would become a US citizen and an influential anti-Nazi activist, spending much of the war entertaining troops on the front lines and broadcasting on behalf of the OSS. Dietrich particularly loathed Jannings for his Nazi ties, and would later refer to her former co-star as a "ham".[8]


Emil Jannings' grave at St Wolfgang im Salzkammergut

Jannings retired to Strobl near Salzburg, Austria, and became an Austrian citizen in 1947.[4] He died in 1950, aged 65, from liver cancer.[9] He is buried in the St. Wolfgang cemetery. His Best Actor Oscar is now on display at the Berlin Filmmuseum.


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.[6]

Cultural depictions


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 a.k.a. The Eyes of the Mummy
Fuhrmann Henschel
Nach zwanzig Jahren Horst Lundin 'Korn'
1919 Rose Bernd Arthur Streckmann
Madame DuBarry Louis XV a.k.a. 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 a.k.a. 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 a.k.a. All for a Woman
Der Stier von Olivera General François Guillaume
The Brothers Karamazov Dimitri Karamasoff a.k.a. Die Brüder Karamasoff
1922 Peter the Great Peter der Große a.k.a. Peter der Große
Othello Othello
The Loves of Pharaoh Pharao Amenes a.k.a. Das Weib des Pharao
Die Gräfin von Paris a.k.a. The Countess of Paris (USA)
1923 Alles für Geld S. I. Rupp
Tragödie der Liebe Ombrade a.k.a. The Tragedy of Love (USA)
1924 Der Letzte Mann Hotelportier (hotel porter) The Last Laugh (USA)
Nju - Eine unverstandene Frau Ehemann a.k.a. Husbands or Lovers (USA)
Das Wachsfigurenkabinett Harun al Raschid a.k.a. Waxworks
Quo Vadis Nerone Extant
1925 Varieté Boss Huller a.k.a. Jealousy (USA)
Liebe macht blind Emil Jannings a.k.a. 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 a.k.a. Darling of the Gods
Der blaue Engel Prof. Immanuel Rath a.k.a. The Blue Angel (USA)
1932 Storms of Passion Gustav Bumke a.k.a. Stürme der Leidenschaft a.k.a. Tempest
1933 Die Abenteuer des Königs Pausole King Pausole a.k.a. The Adventures of King Pausole
The Merry Monarch King Pausole
1934 Der Schwarze Walfisch Peter Petersen a.k.a. The Black Whale (International: English title)
1935 Der Alte und der junge König - Friedrichs des Grossen Jugend Friedrich Wilhelm I. König von Preussen a.k.a. The Making of a King (USA)
1936 The Dreamer Direktor Prof. Niemeyer
1937 The Broken Jug Adam, Dorfrichter a.k.a. The Broken Jug
Der Herrscher Matthias Clausen a.k.a. The Ruler
1939 Robert Koch Dr. Robert Koch
Der Trichter. (Nr. III) scenes deleted
1941 Ohm Krüger Ohm Krüger a.k.a. Uncle Kruger (International: English title)
1942 Die Entlassung Bismarck a.k.a. Bismarck's Dismissal (UK)
1943 Altes Herz wird wieder jung Fabrikdirektor Hoffmann
1945 Wo ist Herr Belling? Firmenchef Eberhard Belling a.k.a. Where Is Mr. Belling?

See also


<div class="reflist columns references-column-width" style="-moz-column-width: refs [4]; -webkit-column-width: refs [4]; column-width: refs [4]; list-style-type: decimal;">

  1. "Walk of Fame Stars-Emil Jannings". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce/Walk of Fame.
  2. Roman Rocek: Die neun Leben des Alexander Lernet-Holenia. Eine Biographie. Böhlau, Wien u.a. 1997; ISBN 3-205-98713-6. S. 186
  3. Frank Noack: "Jannings. Der erste deutsche Weltstar". Collection Rolf Heyne, München 2012
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Herr Emil Jannings A Great Film Actor". Obituaries. The Times (51580). London. 4 January 1950. col E, p. 7.
  5. "Throw Rin Tin Tin A Bone & Give Back The Pooch's Best Actor Oscar", deadline.com; January 2012.
  6. 1 2 Emil Jannings at the Internet Movie Database
  7. Welch, David (2001). Propaganda and the German Cinema, 1933-1945. I.B.Tauris. p. 117. ISBN 9781860645204. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  8. Marlene (1984)
  9. Chroniknet.de, Obituary for Emil Jannings (2 January 1950), chroniknet.de]; accessed 26 October 2014.

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Emil Jannings.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.