Jannings circa 1926
Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz
23 July 1884
|Died||2 January 1950 (aged 65)|
|Spouse(s)||?? (m. 19??; div. 19??)|
(m. 1919; div. 1921)
Lucie Höflich (m. 192?; div. 192?)
Emil Jannings (born Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz, 23 July 1884 – 2 January 1950) was a German actor, popular in the 1920s in Hollywood. He was the first recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actor for his roles in The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. As of 2020, Jannings is the only German ever to have won the category.
Jannings is best known for his collaborations with F. W. Murnau and Josef von Sternberg, including 1930's The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel), with Marlene Dietrich. The Blue Angel 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.
Childhood and youth
Jannings was born in Rorschach, Switzerland, the son of Emil Janenz, an American businessman from St. Louis, and his wife Margarethe (née Schwabe), originally from Germany. 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. Permanently employed since 1915, Jannings met with playwright Karl Vollmöller, fellow actor Ernst Lubitsch, and photographer Frieda Riess. After World War I all were at the heart of 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 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 1924 film The Last Laugh (Der Letzte Mann), 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 Tartuffe (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, Jannings was not actually the winner of the first best actor vote, but the runner-up. While researching her book, Orlean thought she 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.
After the Nazi Machtergreifung in 1933, Jannings continued his career in the service of Nazi 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). 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) 
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, effectively ending his career.
Ironically, in the same period Dietrich became 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".
Jannings retired to Strobl near Salzburg, Austria, and became an Austrian citizen in 1947. He died in 1950, aged 65, from liver cancer. He is buried in the St. Wolfgang cemetery. His Best Actor Oscar is now on display at the Berlin Filmmuseum.
Jannings was married four times. His first three marriages ended in divorce, his last with his death. His last three marriages were to German stage and film actresses, Hanna Ralph, Lucie Höflich, and Gussy Holl. He had a daughter, Ruth-Maria, although some sources say Ruth-Maria was actually his stepdaughter, and that her real father was Conrad Veidt, Holl's first husband.
- Hilmar Eichhorn portrayed a fictionalized version of Jannings in Inglourious Basterds (2009), directed by Quentin Tarantino. This fictional version of Jannings dies in the ensuing cinema fire at the end of the film.
- 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.
|1916||Aus Mangel an Beweisen||Dr. Langer|
|Die Bettlerin von St. Marien||Baron Gelsburg|
|Im Angesicht des Toten||Paul Werner|
|Life Is a Dream||Verführer (the seducer)|
|A Night of Horror||Banker|
|Stein unter Steinen|
|1917||Das fidele Gefängnis||Quabbe, the jailer||The Merry Jail (Europe: English title)|
|When Four Do the Same||Segetoff|
|The Marriage of Luise Rohrbach||Wilhelm Rohrbach|
|Der Zehnte Pavillon der Zitadelle|
|Das Geschäft||S. H. Haßler|
|The Ring of Giuditta Foscari|
|The Sea Battle|
|1918||The Seeds of Life||James Fraenkel, Börsenmarktler
John Smith, amerikanischer Ingenieur
|The Eyes of the Mummy||Radu, an Arab|
|Nach zwanzig Jahren||Horst Lundin 'Korn'|
|1919||Rose Bernd||Arthur Streckmann|
|Madame DuBarry||Louis XV||a.k.a. Passion|
|The Daughter of Mehemed||Vaco Juan Riberda, Fabrikbesitzer|
|The Man of Action||Jan Miller|
|Anna Boleyn||Henry VIII||a.k.a. Deception|
|The Skull of Pharaoh's Daughter||Osorcon, Pharao of Egypt|
|The Big Light||Lorenz Ferleitner|
|Kohlhiesel's Daughters||Peter Xaver|
|The Oath of Peter Hergatz|
|Danton||Georges Danton||a.k.a. All for a Woman|
|The Bull of Olivera||General François Guillaume|
|The Brothers Karamazov||Dimitri Karamasoff||a.k.a. Die Brüder Karamasoff|
|1922||Peter the Great||Peter the Great||a.k.a. Peter der Große|
|The Loves of Pharaoh||Pharao Amenes||a.k.a. Das Weib des Pharao|
|The Countess of Paris||Ombrade|
|1923||All for Money||S. I. Rupp|
|Tragedy of Love||Ombrade|
|1924||The Last Laugh||Hotel Porter||The Last Laugh (USA)|
|Husbands or Lovers||Husband|
|1925||Variety||Boss Huller||a.k.a. Jealousy (USA)|
|Love is Blind||Emil Jannings|
|Faust – A German Folktale||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|
|1930||Darling of the Gods||Albert Winkelmann||a.k.a. Darling of the Gods|
|The Blue Angel||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||The Black Whale||Peter Petersen||a.k.a. The Black Whale (International: English title)|
|1935||The Old and the Young King||Frederick William I of Prussia||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||Robert Koch|
|Der Trichter. (Nr. III)||scenes deleted|
|1941||Ohm Krüger||Paul Kruger||a.k.a. Uncle Kruger (International: English title)|
|1942||Die Entlassung||Otto von 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?|
- List of German-speaking Academy Award winners and nominees
- List of actors with Academy Award nominations
- Roman Rocek: Die neun Leben des Alexander Lernet-Holenia. Eine Biographie. Böhlau, Wien u.a. 1997; ISBN 3-205-98713-6. S. 186
- Frank Noack: "Jannings. Der erste deutsche Weltstar". Collection Rolf Heyne, München 2012
- "Herr Emil Jannings A Great Film Actor". Obituaries. The Times (51580). London. 4 January 1950. col E, p. 7.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (3 January 2012). "Susan Orlean: Throw Rin Tin Tin A Bone & Give Back The Pooch's Best Actor Oscar". Deadline Hollywood.
- "Walk of Fame Stars-Emil Jannings". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce/Walk of Fame.
- Emil Jannings on IMDb
- Welch, David (2001). Propaganda and the German Cinema, 1933-1945. I.B.Tauris. p. 117. ISBN 9781860645204. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
- Marlene (1984)
- Chroniknet.de, Obituary for Emil Jannings (2 January 1950), chroniknet.de]; accessed 26 October 2014.
- Deutelbaum, Marshall (1952). "Image" on the art and evolution of the film: Photographs and articles from the magazine of the International Museum of Photography. ISBN 9780486237770.
- "Billboard". 14 January 1950.
- Noack, Frank (4 March 2016). Veit Harlan: The Life and Work of a Nazi Filmmaker. ISBN 9780813167022.
- "Motion Picture". February 1928.
- 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
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Emil Jannings.|
- Emil Jannings on IMDb
- Photographs of Emil Jannings
- Newspaper clippings about Emil Jannings in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW