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The First Oscars: A Return to 1929

A silent film beauty, a German Shepherd dog, and a German actor that went on to act for the Nazi regime awarded

By Kelly Ni
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 22, 2013 Last Updated: February 22, 2013
Related articles: Arts & Entertainment » Movies & TV
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Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd film dog, was originally voted Best Actor at the first Academy Awards in 1929. Rin Tin Tin was honored on June 6, 2012 by the Academy of Arts and Sciences. (Rin Tin Tin Incorporated)

Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd film dog, was originally voted Best Actor at the first Academy Awards in 1929. Rin Tin Tin was honored on June 6, 2012 by the Academy of Arts and Sciences. (Rin Tin Tin Incorporated)

It was 1920 and the war had ended. After WWI, came the “crazy years,” also called “années folles” in French.

The crazy years brought us jazz. Some western women took to the trend of the flappers—shorter skirts, bobbed hair, jazzy, and rebellious. It was a style and attitude that marked the Roaring Twenties.

In 1929, the roaring decade came to an end with the Black Tuesday stock market crash, which many believe ignited the Great Depression of the 1930s, a global economic downslide.

Herbert Hoover was the U.S. president.

The Museum of Modern Art opened in New York, and the television technology pioneers were creating the set in color. 

That same year, the first Academy Awards were held in Los Angeles.

A popular film at the time was “Wings,” a 1927 silent film about two WWI fighter pilot friends who both had affections for the same woman. The film won the Academy Award for Outstanding Picture, now called Best Picture, and the Academy Award for Best Engineering Effects.

The award for Unique and Artistic Picture went to “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans,” also called “Sunrise.” The film was about a married farmer that fell under the spell of a slatternly lady from the city who tried to convince him to drown his wife.

The award for Best Actress went to Janet Gaynor, a popular silent film actress. She won the award for her performances in “Seventh Heaven,” “Sunrise,” and “Street Angel.”

The award for Best Actor originally went to Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd dog, in “The Night Cry,” but it was later decided that the award should go to a German man, Emil Jannings, so that people would take the awards seriously.

The original vote for Best Actor in 1929 went to Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd film dog, in "The Night Cry." (Rin Tin Tin Incorporated)

The original vote for Best Actor in 1929 went to Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd film dog, in "The Night Cry." (Rin Tin Tin Incorporated)

It was hard for the audience to understand Jannings, however, because of his strong German accent. His popularity declined, and he later went on to work for the Nazi regime. Because he had acted in Nazi propaganda films, he was not able to make a comeback in Hollywood.

Rin Tin Tin, however, has had a long and successful acting career that has lasted 95 years to date. Rin Tin Tin’s spokesperson said that the German Shepherd dog was honored on June 6, 2012, by the Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academy Awards organizers, in recognition of dogs in film.

Rin Tin Tin Incorporated, breeder of Rin Tin Tin linage dogs, is very strict about which dogs are granted the Rin Tin Tin name. 

Two special awards were given at the very first awards ceremony. One was given to Charles Chaplin for acting, writing, directing, and producing “The Circus.” The other special award went to Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. for producing “The Jazz Singer,” the first feature-length film with Vitaphone Sound-on-disc. 

“The Jazz Singer” was about a young man that rebelled against his traditional Jewish culture by singing popular songs of the time. His father punished him, so he ran away from home, adopted a stage name, and became a jazz singer, which eventually conflicted with his traditional home roots.

The first Academy Awards lasted for three whole months after the awards were given away. 

Although the awards don’t last that long these days, we can always count on at least one day of the annual Academy Awards, also known as The Oscars. 

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