Sailor. German. Academy Award Winner TM. Nazi. Emil Jannings life had all the makings of a great movie. Unfortunately, the only one who remembered was Quentin Tarrantino.
Its the age old question. How do you take a complete and collective dump on your place in history? Well, if you are silent film star Emil Jannings, you solve that little quandry by becoming a gloriously willing goosestepping kraut eating Nazi. By the way, Jannings was also the first man to win Best Actor at the very first Academy Awards in 1929. Born Theodore Emil Janenz in 1884 as the son of an American father and German mother in Goritz, Austria - little Emil showed promise as an actor at an early age. However, like a lot of young boys and actors - he ran off to beome a sailor. Because, young dramatic people really really like tight shiny pants and those cure little shoes. This would serve him well as he served Hitler later. At 18, he came back home, probably because his career as Captain Jack Sparrow only really had one good show in it at the time. Jannings then began acting in earnest which led him to the Max Reinhardt theater in Berlin (at the time one of the most respected in all the world) Changing his name for the stage and screen to Emil Jannings (possibly because all the really cool ones like 'Judy Garland' were already taken). He then started working with F. W. Murnau. Starring in three pictures, Jannings was most notable as Mestipholes in Faust. Artistically, of course Jannings wanted to change the name of the character to Nosferatu starring Judy Garland, but again that was all in the works for later projects. Jannings film work then took him to America where he was actually awarded the very first Academy Award for Best Actor in 19289 for his work on films in the previous years because that's just how you rolled in the roaring 20's. The first film was The Way of All Flesh and the second was The Last Command. Now, I know what you are thinking on the Last Command - that it was part three of the Thrawn Trilogy in the Star Wars Expanded Universe and that Jannings was not only playing Luke Skywalker but also his own clone Luuke Skywalker and there was an edited scene where both of them were furiously boning Mara Jade. Yeah, Jannings wanted to that version too and to of course be billed as Judy Garland while doing it. He totally got screwed over. Yeah, apparently this film stars Jannings as a Russian during the Bolshevik revolution who shows his love for a woman and for Mother Russia. Again, a little company for a future Nazi to keep. The first year of the Academy Awards was the only one where they awarded multiple performances by the way. As the era of the 'talkies' neared, Jannings was tossed out of Hollywood on his ass (for the first time) because his thick German accent was deemed bad for films. This was in the days before we knew that actors with thick German accents could spout such poetry as "I'll Be Back" and "Give Dem De Air!!!" A sad loss for American film, but wow what a gain for non-porn Nazi film making. Jannings went back to Germany and to his surprise he was entering history at just the right time. Jannings was coming up on what is unversally known as 'Springtime For Hitler and Germany.' The National Socialists came to power and well they were just such snappy dressers with such cute boots that Jannings immeadiately fell in love. Jannings spent the whole of the Third Reich making films for the Nazis, palling around with Hitler and Goebbels as well as trying to get his new pseudonym into film. However, to our knowledge Jannings was never billed as 'Frances Gumm' either. Oh well, the sacrifices you make for art and all. Jannings did manage to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Nazis. Not quite a 'pin from the Pope' but it would have to do. When the Nazis fell for some odd reason (like the entire known world outside of Germany and Alabama thought they had bad ideas) Jannings thought he might return to his Hollywood career. That's when he discovered all old Nazis were really just expected to direct. So Jannings had a forced retirement which he died in 1950 as a result of liver problems. Then all of the sudden, he gets remembered. Of course it was in the film Inglorious Basterds by Quentin Tarrantino and in the Tarrantino-verse things are a little skewed. (notably the size of Tarantino's penis) but also that Jannings now died in a fire at a Paris theater which also featured Hitler and Goebbels being gunned down. Jannings might not have had a problem with that...if only he had been billed on stage as Dorothy Gale.