The Academy Awards have always generated considerable debate over the films it deems fit to honor, and it seems that this discourse extends back to the very first award ceremony. Susan Orlean’s recent bio of classic Hollywood’s most famous canine, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, has lent evidence to an old Hollywood rumor that the dog star was supposed to win the first award for Best Actor.
The first Academy Awards were more of a popularity contest (and they still are, depending on who you talk to), and Rin Tin Tin was one of the most popular stars of his time. Instead, the Academy passed him over and gave the award to German actor Emil Jannings. After talkies became a big thing and his German accent wasn’t helping his career, Jannings returned to his native land and made propaganda films for Joseph Goebbels. What a guy.
Orlean is calling upon the Academy to recognize its mistake and award Rin Tin Tin a posthumous Oscar, in the process recognizing animal acting. “If you look at what Rin Tin Tin did, he seemed to understand that he was performing,” says Orlean. “Look at Clash of the Wolves, as he limps away from his pack to die alone. You watch the scene and can’t believe he didn’t know he was acting in the movie.”
I’m sure the Academy could consider an honorary Oscar for Rin Tin Tin. He was a film classic, and also seems like a better person than Jannings. You didn’t see that dog going to make propaganda films for Hitler, and you know why? Because he was a patriot, dammit. Let’s see Jannings and his opposable thumbs top that criteria.[Deadline via The Guardian]