The Last Command

last command
Drama, War, History
1928

Director: Josef von Sternberg Cast: Emil Jannings, Evelyn Brent, William Powell, Jack Raymond, Nicholas Soussanin, Michael Visaroff, Fritz Feld

Academy Award: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Emil Jannings – also for his performance in The Way of All Flesh)

Also Nominated For: Best Writing, Story

I First Saw In: 2015

Synopsis: A former Imperial Russian General and cousin of the Czar ends up in Hollywood as an extra in a movie directed by a former revolutionist.

Did You Know? Emil Jannings was not only the first recipient of the Best Actor Oscar, he was also the very first person to ever receive an Oscar. Back then, the winners were announced 3 months prior to the ceremony; but Jannings was due to return home to Germany, so he requested that he receive his Academy Award early.

And now a Word from the Guise:
A lot can be said for silent films today. The actors relied a lot more on their business and blocking back then, before the talkies came. They were such experts at their craft, that you knew what was happening in the scene even without the title cards. Emil Jannings gave a top-notch performance, complimented by the top-notch performances of Evelyn Brent and William Powell.

My only issue with the film, and I’m certain I’m going to be dealing with this a lot during my exploration of early Oscar winning films, is that it is completely sexist. Before we are introduced to the one female character, there is a scene between General Alexander and the Adjutant. The Adjutant is showing him a picture of the woman and says, “Her name is Natalie Dabrova, the most dangerous revolutionist in Russia.” The very next title card is a line from General Alexander and says, “Let’s have them up. He’s dangerous enough – and she’s pretty enough – to merit my personal attention!”

So, his Adjutant just told him that she was a dangerous revolutionist, and he’s going to disregard that and focus on her being pretty? Later, he seems shocked and offended that she pulls a gun on him; it’s not like she’s a dangerous revolutionist or anything…. But how dangerous could she possibly be, because she literally faints when she can’t decide between carrying out her orders to kill him and saving the man that she loves (who she seriously just met like an hour ago)?

If you can overlook the blaring misogyny, and if you don’t mind silent films, The Last Command is really a wonderful film.

Oscar Madness Ranking – ??? out of 233

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