Thursday, 19 August 2010

Best Actor 1928: Emil Jannings in The Last Command

Emil Jannings won the first best actor Oscar for portraying Gen. Dolgorucki / Grand Duke Sergius Alexander in The Last Command.

The Last Command is a more interesting film than I expected it to be, a film about a Czarist Russian General who goes an becomes a movie extra after the revolution.

 This film presents some astoundingly subtle acting from Emil Jannings in this role. With Jannings you will not see the over done motions and gestures usually seen in silent acting, but instead subtle gestures to greater effect. Jannings begins in the film just perfectly as the proud Russian General who loves Russia and must try to keep control during the turbulent time of the Revolution. His presence is just right always having the right pompous movements in his steps and a right clearly controlling nature in the way in which he moves.He never forces himself to look like the General he just is the General, always perfect and completely fulfilling the look of the part as a silent actor needs to. There is never a doubt in his performance which makes the General's own confidence all the more believable.

He is amazing in this part really because even when many around him overact with their faces and movements Jannings never really does. The closest he comes is when he laughs, but than again he is laughing. He has strong scenes throughout the film because he shows his emotions only with his face, because that is all he can really do in a silent film, and shows the emotions always incredibly well. Especially strong scene is when he attempts to romance a woman, where Jannings clearly shows an interesting romantic side of the General. Showing an actual warmness and passion into his performance with his subtle facial gestures.

His strongest scenes though is the one where he is attacked by revolutionaries and another in his final scene. The scene where he is attacked by revolutionaries is brilliantly handled by Jannings, showing the General attempt to keep power and order is effectively handled. But than after being attacked by the mob his face of surprise and anguish is spectacular. He shows not one obvious emotion but rather allowing us to see what the General is thinking. His change to great general to a lowly film extra is perfectly handled showing his depression and loss clearly. His last speech where he finally gains his old command (although fictionally in a film) and passion back is expertly done by Jannings giving a great performance, and showing that silent performance can be subtle and truly effective.

6 comments:

Fritz said...

Sounds great. To be honest, my knowledge about all those really old movies is very limited...

I know you already have the next year planned, but may I recommend 1961 for either Actor or Supporting Actor?

joe burns said...

Yeah, he sounds really good!

Sage Slowdive said...

I was surprised at how good he was...of course, nothing I'd particularly wanna watch again, but still very good.

Louis Morgan said...

Fritz: I will do 61 supporting after 48.

Sage: Yeah he was good but the film really was not the best.

Tom said...

I really want to see this one now.

Louis Morgan said...

See it, its worth it for his performance.